24.9°C 03:00 pm

Surreal twilight

Wednesday, 23rd September, 2009

The city was plunged into darkness yesterday as the worst dust storm in decades engulfed the city.

What began as a fine day soon deteriorated into a dirty brown haze, and by 3.30pm the sky had turned black as winds of almost 100km/h whipped up a thick cloud of dust that blotted out the sun.

The weather seemed to improve throughout the afternoon as the sky turned different shades of red and brown, but by 5pm the city was again in a surreal twilight with sunlight barely able to break through the dust. The storm brought down tree branches across the city and power lines in the South, while the local State

Emergency Service (SES) attended seven call outs to locals who reported property damage. "It's mainly roof jobs... we haven't experienced weather like this in a very long time," said SES Deputy Controller Operations Andrew Craker.

Mr Craker said SES crews had been hampered by poor visibility, with crews having to be held back during the storm's worst periods for safety reasons. The dust also triggered fire alarms and evacuations in a number of buildings, and forced the closure of the hospital's Thomas Street entrance.

At Willyama High School about 50 students were forced to wait out the storm on school grounds, long after classes had finished. "There were a lot of kids who usually walk home, so it was just a matter of contacting their parents," said Principal Tony Hicks. "I think the last one got away at around 4.35, so hopefully they all made it home safely. "A lot of the kids were very excited... we've got a few exchange students from Wales and one from Finland, and they thought it was a bit different." Locals could be in for more wild weather early this morning with strong to gale force winds predicted, with conditions easing in the afternoon.

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