Cyclones are a part of the reality of life in the north. The cyclone season stretches from November to April. On average there are five cyclones in this period, two of which cross the coast, bringing strong winds, storm surges and a lot of rain which can cause flooding well inland.
Anyone who has lived for some time in the Pilbara knows well the impact of a cyclone can be severe. Apart from the risk of damage to property, it can mean extended periods without power or communications, and flooded roads which can make moving about hazardous, even after the worst of the storm has passed.
We can’t avoid cyclones, but there is much we can do to make sure we are prepared.
Of course, preparation needs to start well before cyclone season, before a cyclone is bearing down on us. A crucial part of the process is to have a cyclone plan to cover what you will do in the event of an emergency.
The Department of Fire and Emergency Services has a lot of useful material on how to prepare and what to do when a cyclone is approaching.
DFES recommends regular detailed inspection and maintenance of properties, every seven to 10 years, to minimise the risk of damage and the likelihood of wind-borne debris that could affect someone else’s property. Corrosion, rust, rotting timber and loosened fitting are all issues that can emerge over time, but pre-season inspections can pick up potential problems before they emerge.
Other points to consider include maintaining trees around your home, including trimming branches that could potentially fall on your house, and having a plan to secure things like boats, trailers and garden sheds. It is also important to think about what will happen with pets if you have to evacuate.
It is important to understand the warning systems and alert levels when a cyclone is active. These range from a cyclone watch or warning and use a colour scale of blue, yellow and red alerts depending on the immediacy and strength of the approaching storm.
Staying informed about the progress of an impending cyclone is vital. The Bureau of Meteorology uses cyclone forecast tracking maps to depict watch and warning zones, and areas of very destructive winds. You can find this map at bom.gov.au/wa/warnings.
You can also find current warnings for cyclones and other emergencies at the Emergency WA website and listen to ABC local radio for regular updates.
Be prepared and stay safe!