Cyclone Christine unleashes 170kmh winds on Karratha

WARNING signals that sounded like "wartime bomb sirens" echoed through the streets of the Western Australian town of Karratha as Cyclone Christine unleashed 170kmh winds and torrential rain in the early hours of Tuesday morning.

Inside his demountable home at Baynton West, Rio Tinto worker Tim Dale hoped the walls and roof built to Category 3 standards - the expected measure of Christine's strength - would withstand their first real test.

The streets were empty, like a "ghost town", and residents on red alert were told to stay indoors, secure loose items and have survival kits ready.

Mr Dale had his ute packed and ready to go in case the "house decided to tear apart" and a back up place to go in case things got too dangerous.

As the storm approached, wind gusts of more than 133kmh were recorded at the airport near Mr Dale's home, the backyard flooded with water, the windows and walls began to shake and the tin on the roof was starting to "clank".

By 11pm, Mr Dale was among thousands to have lost power to his home and all he could do was wait.

"The rain was near horizontal as it came down with the wind... water was leaking in through the shut windows," Mr Dale said

"The scariest part was when the cyclone started heading south and we were more north of the cyclone as the wind changed direction and was hitting the front of the house.

"I live across the road from a gully so no houses in front of me and less protection.

"I had my doubts about the transportable home holding together but she did well considering it was a category 3."

On Tuesday afternoon Mr Dale and hundreds of SES workers were only just starting to survey the damage but it was still too early to tell.

Roofs had been ripped off patios and two new traffic lights installed in his street were bent and buckled but no serious injuries or loss of life had been reported.

By lunchtime, the threat had eased at Port Hedland and Karratha and the storm downgraded to a Category 2 but a red alert warning remained in place on Tuesday night for inland parts of the Pilbara.

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