New modelling shows stark consequences for Geraldton if tropical cyclone was to hit

© Provided by ABC NEWS More than 100 homes were destroyed in Tropical Cyclone Seroja. (ABC News: Hugh Sando)

More than 100 homes were destroyed across Western Australia’s Mid West region during Tropical Cyclone Seroja, but a new report has found the impact would have been far more severe had the storm crossed slightly further south.

The four-year research project found that nearly 12,000 homes in the Mid West coastal city of Geraldton could be extensively damaged or completely destroyed if a category three cyclone — such as Seroja — was to directly hit. 

A category one cyclone would be expected to damage more than 8,000 homes, according to the modelling. 

The Severe Wind Hazard Assessment (SWHA) undertaken by Geoscience Australia and the WA Department of Fire and Emergency Services (DFES) examined the impact of cyclones on residential buildings from Perth to Broome.

DFES Country North acting chief superintendent Grant Pipe said findings from the study would be used to help emergency services and local communities prepare for future cyclone events. 

“The information will be another tool in the kit bag for DFES in terms of response and community preparedness,” he said.

“We’ll use this information to better prepare the communities where they’ve got old housing stock … to ensure that their properties are as prepared as they can be.” 

Lessons learned from Seroja

Information gathered from the devastating impact of Cyclone Seroja helped DFES and Geoscience Australia model the potential impacts of a category three storm crossing the WA coast further south than usual.

But as for the type of houses more or less likely to be damaged in such a storm, Mr Pipe said that could not be distinguished, as the age of a home did not reduce the risk of damage caused by a cyclone. 

“Cyclone damage is a hard thing to quantify,” he said.

“Certainly the older [housing] stock in all our suburbs and communities across northern WA are at the majority of risk, and that’s due to things rusting away and those type of maintenance issues.

“But if your next door neighbour’s not as prepared as you are, and their residence was to start to come apart as a consequence of that, you are going to see more damage as a direct result of that.”

Regardless of the age of your property, Mr Pipe said everyone must be prepared.

“I don’t want to put anyone at any false sense of security, so everyone needs to be making sure their property is prepared in terms of building maintenance and the general tidy-up around the premises.

“Whatever the age of the house is, if those maintenance items are carried out and carried out appropriately, that’ll give you the best chance to sustain and survive a cyclone.”

Cyclones in the south a genuine risk 

Cyclone Seroja was the strongest event the region had seen in more than 50 years, according to the Bureau of Meteorology.

But it was likely the Mid West would see similar events in the future, according to Mr Pipe.

“It’s a matter of if, not when.

“We just urge everyone, particularly in the north west of the state and Geraldton upwards, to make sure that they’re well versed of all the cyclone warnings and make sure their properties are prepared.” 

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