Are we cyclone ready? BOM predicts early start to cyclone season

Risk Matters - Summer 2022 / 23

Our weather is changing, and WA Local governments and communities need to make sure that they’re prepared for unseasonal cyclone activity.

The Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) warns of an increased chance that the first tropical cyclone in the Australian region is likely to be earlier in the season. The country is at heightened risk of an above-average number of tropical cyclones until May 2023.

October to April is the peak time in Australia for flooding, tropical cyclones, heatwaves, bushfires and severe thunderstorms. According to BOM, this season, there is a greater than 70% chance of at least 11 tropical cyclones – the long-term average – as well as an elevated risk of grass fire and prolonged heatwaves in southern areas of Australia, with higher humidity.

We are very well aware of the havoc tropical Cyclone Seroja created in 2021, severely damaging homes, businesses, communications, road infrastructure and electricity service across a number of WA communities.

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Common types of property damages caused due to cyclones

  • Roofs blown away due to failure of rusted fasteners, connector plates, roof battens and other roof components. 
  • Structural damage to buildings caused by cyclone winds. This structural damage can then lead to debris that further damages other buildings, even if adequately protected against wind loading.
  • Damage to verandas and roofs caused by failure of rot or termite-affected timber.
  • Failure of inadequately secured gutters, flashings, fascia and eaves.
  • Wind-driven rain entering buildings through vents, under flashings or through weep holes in windows and glass sliding doors, causing damage to floors, ceilings, walls and building contents.
  • Broken doors and windows caused by wind-borne debris, which can let in more rain and wind.
  • Doors and windows blown open due to inadequate fixing to walls or inadequate locks and door sets.
  • Garage doors being blown in or out. 
  • Collapse of unreinforced masonry walls.
  • Damage to buildings, fences, pools, patios and carports etc. caused by falling trees or wind-borne debris.
  • Property inundation and damage caused by storm tide.

Members can mitigate the risk of property damage by focussing or rather upgrading areas which are at high risk of getting damaged due to rain and accompanied wind, and further identifying other potential hazards around an asset.   

Precaution needs to be administered in three stages – pre-season actions, immediate actions, and regular retrofits and upgrades.

1. Pre-season actions

The focus should be on aspects like roof inspections, securing control boards from water, storing chemicals above ground level, and cleaning and tightening of gutters. 

2. Immediate actions

These set of actions are different from the previous ones as they focus on implementations done right ahead of a cyclone warning. Preparedness measures include additional availability of fuel, finding proper shelter for vehicles, and disconnecting main electrical feeds to the facility.

3. Building Retrofits and Upgrades

Whether an asset falls under cyclone-prone zone or not, retrofits and upgrades are essential part of property maintenance. Therefore, members are advised to regularly inspect, maintain and repair any asset they own. This is important as many building materials deteriorate over a period of time, and their steel elements and reinforcement in concrete can corrode. Moreover, rot or termites can affect the timber used in the construction of an asset.

Resources for these actions are available on the LGIS website.

For more information please get in touch with your account manager.

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