Western Australia Premier Mark McGowan says the tropical cyclone bearing down on the state’s coastline is the fiercest of its kind “seen in decades”.
Fast-moving Cyclone Seroja was upgraded to a category three and recorded winds of 170/km on Sunday evening, as emergency services warned residents from Carnarvon to Lancelin of impending danger.
Seroja was maintaining its intensity as it approached the coast, but was downgraded to category 2 at 11pm with sustained winds near the centre of 100 kilometres per hour with wind gusts to 140 kilometres per hour.
The core of tropical cyclone Seroja is moving inland southeast of Geraldton. Wind gusts to 170 km/h were reported near Kalbarri during landfall, but the cyclone has now weakened slightly.
WA’s historic One Mile Jetty has already been ripped apart by the cyclone, with one witness saying “she just went under” around midday and that the jetty was “getting hammered”.
WA’s Department of Fire and Emergency issued a red alert for people living along a 450km stretch of the coast between Carnarvon and Kalbarri, warning them their lives and homes are at risk as tropical cyclone Seroja gathers momentum.
Seroja was travelling at around 65 kilometres per hour, and significant impacts are expected to extend inland through to Wheat Belt communities overnight.
The BOM says the cyclone will weaken as it moves further inland on Monday but is still likely to result in damaging wind gusts, particularly to the north and east of the track.
Kalbarri, a resort town on WA’s coast, recorded a 170 km/h wind gust at 7:03pm local time and has seen 111 mm of rain since 9am.
“Conditions are quickly deteriorating, with damaging gales currently occurring between Denham and Kalbarri and stronger winds yet to come along the coast,” the BOM said.
Mr McGowan said at a press conference people caught in the red zone were faced with a “very serious threat” and the government expected “significant damage”.
“Tropical Cyclone Seroja is nothing we have seen before in decades,” he said. “People need to act to stay safe.
“Stay inside and shelter in the strongest, safest part of your house or evacuation centre. Keep your emergency kit with you.
“Stay away from doors and windows and keep them closed. Stay indoors until the all clear is given by authorities.”
Anyone in the red alert area is urged to stay inside, activate their emergency alert plan and stay tuned in to updates.
“Now we need that assistance from the community. Stay inside tonight. Don’t even think about coming out until tomorrow,” WA Police commissioner Chris Dawson said.
Cyclone Seroja is expected to bring damaging winds, heavy rain, abnormally high tides, and coastal flooding, sparking fears dozens of homes are at risk of going under water.
Department of Fire and Emergency Services Commissioner Darren Klemm warned residents communications could become blocked in the area.
“There will be times over the next six to seven hours where you may not have internet coverage, you may not have mobile phone coverage,” he said.
Winds gusts could top 125km/h as far inland as the northern wheatbelt, with Seroja expected to move at a rate of 50km/h when it hits dry land.
The howling winds are expected to hit Esperance from the west at 100km/h.
People in the Kalbarri and Geraldton area can expect to feel the impact of the system from mid to late afternoon on Sunday.
Residents in the low lying areas of Denham could become inundated with water as the weather system approaches.
The Bureau of Meteorology has warned Denham and Geraldton face the worst conditions, which could last for up to three hours.
“Tropical Cyclone Seroja is expected to cross the coast as a Category two system on Sunday evening,” it said in a statement.
“The area at greatest risk is from Denham to Geraldton. Coastal communities and adjacent inland areas between Carnarvon and Lancelin are urged to monitor weather warnings on the Bureau’s website and BOM Weather app, and be prepared to take action.