Australia Weather News

The tornado ripped roofs off homes and scattered debris throughout the area. (ABC News: Jon Kerr)

After an anxious wait residents hit by a freak tornado in Bunbury last week have returned home to scenes of utter devastation.

The storm struck just after 4pm on Friday and tore a path of destruction through the suburbs of South Bunbury, Withers and College Grove.

More than 220 properties were damaged in total.

Nine have been ruled uninhabitable and 16 sustained severe damage.

Residents are now facing a lengthy rebuilding process.

Long-term College Grove resident Elaine Bartels was sitting in her bedroom when the tornado struck.

"The next minute I heard this bang and the whole roof just caved in," she said.

"It was all coming towards me — there was a roof, there was glass, there was timber.

"I went into the spare room thinking it was safe, but then it all came down."

After sheltering in a door frame under some asbestos bags Ms Bartels fled next door where her neighbours' roof was also being torn off by the storm.

"He just thought we were dead," she said.

Ms Bartels and her husband Doug have been staying at their daughter's house, which was not affected by the storm despite being less than a kilometre away.

"This is our family home," Ms Bartels said.

"We're waiting on our insurance company, we're trying to work out what we're doing here."

Hazmat warning amid clean-up

Department of Fire and Emergency Services (DFES) incident Controller Nathan Hall said a further 12 calls for assistance had been received on Monday.

"That involves roof repairs, debris removal and making places watertight ahead of weather coming this weekend," he said.

Mr Hall said asbestos remained a threat in much of the impact zone and that a hazmat warning was still in place for areas of Withers near the Hay Park sporting complex.

He said vehicle access would continue to be restricted to prevent the further spread and break-up of asbestos material already present.

"We really need to stress that the community needs to take safe actions on the best way to handle asbestos," Mr Hall said.

He said residents should contact the City of Bunbury, which could provide advice and support to in cases where asbestos needed to be removed.

Small, fast and devastating

Bureau of Meteorology duty forecaster Jessica Lingard said there were significant differences between tornadoes here and overseas.

"Tornadoes in Australia are very different to the tornadoes we see forming in America," she said.

"American ones are huge — they're very, very powerful and they hang around for ages.

"Tornadoes in Australia are much, much smaller … a live fast, die young feel to them."

Ms Lingard said tornadoes in Australia were almost impossible to forecast.

"Many severe thunderstorms do have that teeny, tiny chance of a tornado forming — you just need a bit of rotation to spin things up," she said.

"We see one or two reports each season and they're usually associated with cold fronts moving through."

Clean-up efforts are also continuing at Bunbury Regional Prison, where a number of outbuildings have been destroyed.

"The prison was always secure, the fence line is secure — we've got insurance inspectors, assessors and infrastructure workers onsite," Corrective Services Minister Paul Papalia said.

"Sadly there's a couple of buildings that have been damaged.

"In this part of the prison, the low security part, these are the people who go out in the community and work.

"There are prisoners from Bunbury Prison helping to clean up the streets of Bunbury after the storm."