THE DAY AFTER
By UTE SCHULENBERG
HAROLD Griffiths has survived many storms during his long time farming on the Dorrigo Plateau, but even he was stunned by the ferocity of the one that ripped through the Mountain Top area on Wednesday.
Harold and his son, Mark, were down in their shed changing a tractor tyre at 10pm when they heard a roaring noise.
"It was the roar of the hail coming through the trees," Mr Griffiths said.
"When it hit, we had our hands over our ears, the sound was so deafening."
What hit them was a brief but violent storm that swept along the edge of the Dorrigo escarpment, pulverizing vegetation, snapping trees in half and hurling large chunks of hail from all angles into homes.
Countless windows were smashed and sheds unroofed.
At the Dorrigo Lookout Motor Inn, the hail came straight through skylights punching holes in bathroom doors and landing on the floor of some rooms.
Colin Scott had come from Brisbane and stopped at the motor inn for the night.
"I was watching the lightening from one door, and when I walked back I felt hail under my feet," Mr Scott said.
"The hail had come straight through the roof, there were huge chunks of ice on the floor."
Shortly after that he and other guests were evacuated from their rooms because a tree had fallen on the gas tank, causing a leak.
Dorrigo Lookout Motor Inn owner, Lyn Stamp, described the storm as very scary.
"There were bangs and crashes and then we were plunged into darkness.
"The hail was really huge."
In the light of day, she discovered amongst other things that the old stables had been blown 100 metres across the yard and dumped in a twisted heap behind the restaurant.
Her neighbour, Greg Bailey, said he has been living at Mountain Top all his life but had never seen hail coming in horizontally like it did on Wednesday night.
"I've been in a lot of storms, but this was the worst," Mr Bailey said.
"I stayed in the pantry."
"They say if a cyclone hits you should stay in a small room ? and there is lots of food in there.
Mr Bailey was up all night checking on neighbours and road fences.
He said while all his stock seemed okay, there was a lot of fence damage.
And there is glass through everything in the house and machinery shed.
"Friends have turned up to help clean up, which is wonderful."
Out along the Dome Road the story was the same.
Helen Proud immediately drove home from Brisbane on Wednesday night after receiving news of the storm.
She arrived to shattered glass, a trashed garden and a rather shocked houseguest.
"We are sitting ducks here on the escarpment," Ms Proud said.
"We have all the natural beauty but all the natural violence, too."
At Dorrigo National Park, walking tracks were closed while damage was being assessed.
Ranger Stephen Hull said the Rainforest Centre was open but roads around the park were closed until further notice. The town of Dorrigo itself escaped the brunt of the storm.
"We had high winds but we never got the hail," resident Ellen Dawson said.
The first Mrs Dawson knew of the severity of the storm was when she came to work at the Motor Inn at 6am.
"I saw the SES strings around and thought my God, what's happened here?" she said. "I had to cook breakfast for the guests on the Primus ? we didn't have any gas."