The severe thunderstorm ripped roofs of several houses in the region.
The severe thunderstorm ripped roofs of several houses in the region.

Storm leaves trail of destruction

SHORT, sharp and violent wind gusts, pushed by a powerful thunderstorm, have devastated the Orara Valley.

Roofs were blown off houses, sheds levelled, 20-metre trees uprooted and powerlines damaged by what property owners say was a wall of “tornado-strength wind” early yesterday.

The destructive “gust-front” lasted just minutes.

Copping the full force were properties along the Dairyville and Upper Orara roads.

“It was calm before it hit, like the eye of a storm ... then came the wind, peeling off our tin roof,” Dairyville’s Paul Southwell said.

Nearby, Linda Willsher said she heard ‘a gnarling metal sound’ as the roof of her house was lifted.

“I was on the phone ringing my son and saying ‘can you hear me, can you hear me, the roof has gone from the house’,” Ms Willsher said.

A one kilometre-wide path of destruction stretched from Bindarri National Park to Karangi, almost 15-kilometres away.

The State Emergency Service, Coffs Harbour City Council and Country Energy, as well as local tree lopping and crane companies, spent a hard day clearing roads and driveways before restoring power.

“We had crews on the ground just after midnight and we responded to seven properties, where trees were down and roofs were lifted,” SES unit controller Bill Roffey said.

“To put a dollar value on it, I’d say up too a million dollars’ damage.”

Mr Roffey said the damage was similar in scale to when a cyclone crossed the coast at Woolgoolga and Emerald Beach in 2004.

Coffs Harbour Bureau of Meteorology weather observer Ashleigh Wilson said turbulent downdrafts from the thunderstorm caused the damage.

“Severe thunderstorms can have wind gusts of up to 90km/h and storm cells of up to 30,000 feet in height,” Ms Wilson said.

Country Energy regional manager Brian McLean said cross arms on power poles broke, a transformer pole snapped and trees were brought down.

Sixteen customers were without power throughout the day.

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