Devastation: Residents inspect the trail of destruction left by a small cyclone.
Devastation: Residents inspect the trail of destruction left by a small cyclone. Northern Star

Freak tornado rips through Lennox

AS the Coffs Coast braces for a massive downpour today, the big clean-up has already begun in northern NSW after a freak tornado swept through Lennox Head.

Northern Rivers residents battled catastrophic weather conditions yesterday resulting in the destruction of 12 houses, hundreds of trees and powerlines uprooted and cars and caravans written off.

The devastating twister, said to have measured 100 metres wide with wind speeds in excess of 150km/h, struck about 7.30am.

Residents who witnessed the rare weather event described it as like a bomb going off.

Some of the worst devastation occurred at Lake Ainsworth Caravan Park where, early on, police and emergency workers feared a resident may have been killed in a crushed van.

It appeared two vans had been sandwiched together and destroyed by the force of the storm.

Along Stewart and Gibbon Streets, where the tornado blitzed its furious path, several multi-million dollar homes, some newly built, were left in ruins, debris strewn across previously manicured lawns.

More than 100 callers rang Richmond Tweed SES for urgent assistance with a mother and daughter taken to hospital with minor head injuries and more than 50 emergency staff responding to requests for help.

“It was luck that only two people were injured,” said Deputy Controller Jeff Spash. “It seems that, because of the time of morning, most people were still inside.”

At the height of the clean-up yesterday SES staff were joined by five NSW Fire Brigade teams as well as the Rural Fire Service, police personnel and 40 technicians from Country Energy.

About 1200 homes in the main Lennox Head area and north of Byron Road lost power with an elderly lady in Pacific Street reliant on oxygen for life support forced to call emergency services.

Country Energy customer relations manager Mike Hely said workers were going street by street disconnecting damaged lines and repairing poles that had been felled by the tornado. “We hope that most people will have power back on by the close of today (Friday),” he said.

“Obviously we will not be reconnecting power to houses that have been virtually destroyed.”

Motorists suffered lengthy delays on the Pacific Highway north of Ballina while roads throughout the area were closed because of flooding with no definite forecasts about when they would reopen. (Go to www.myroads.info.com to check your local area.)



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