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Western Power battles storm damage
Storm damage at Stallard Place, Withers. Picture: Bethany Withers.

Dozens of terrified residents were evacuated from a block of flats in Tuart Hill yesterday after strong winds blew the roof off their home during a once-in-a-decade storm that wreaked havoc across the lower half of the State.

More than 140,000 homes were still without power last night after winds up to 140km/h ripped trees from the ground and brought power lines down.

The roof on the block of 10 flats on North Beach Drive peeled off in the strong winds about 1.30pm. No one was injured but the flats, which were home to a number of children, had to be evacuated.

Resident Jacqueline Phillips said the ordeal was terrifying.

"We heard strong wind and out of curiosity I come out to have a look, that's when I saw it was actually our roof that was about to fall off," she said. "We quickly rushed inside and lay down on the floor because it was scary … you don't know where to run to."

Ms Phillips' cousin Saio Conteh-Kamara was due to give birth on Saturday and is now concerned for her living arrangements: "I am worried, I could give birth at any time."

In East Perth, a nine-year-old girl stepped out of her father's car moments before a tree branch crashed on to it.

In Busselton, the $150,000 Joseph Ashton Circus tent was destroyed, while a cleaner at the Perth & Tattersalls Bowling & Recreation Club in East Perth was stunned when the club's high windows shattered under the intense pressure of the strong winds.

Several people escaped serious harm when a pontoon at the Port Bouvard marina was dragged 800m, while boats in Rockingham were ripped from their moorings.

Day-trippers to Rottnest Island were stranded for several hours after ferry companies temporarily cancelled services due to the rough seas.

Riverside Drive and the northbound lanes of the Kwinana Freeway were under water, while motorists had to swerve to miss debris on roads across the city. The outer perimeter fence at the low-security Karnet Prison Farm south of Perth was also damaged.

The State Emergency Service had received more than 350 calls for help by 6pm.

Mandurah and Rockingham were the worst hit by the storm, while in the South West there was widespread damage to utilities, railway infrastructure and debris caused hazards for drivers. Roads into Kojonup were closed. A Western Power spokeswoman said they attended more than 750 jobs after about 170 powerlines and 50 poles fell to the ground across the metropolitan area and the South West.

The Weather Bureau's Grahame Reader said the storm was a once-in-a-decade event, the result of a tropical low from the north combining with a fast-moving cold front. It peaked between 1.30pm and 2.30pm, with Cape Naturaliste recording a wind gust of 139km/h.

But it was not all bad news, with farmers rejoicing thanks to some much-needed rainfall.