Multi-million dollar hail damage bill
By Alex Easton
LISMORE faces a damage bill likely to reach into the tens of millions after a freak storm yesterday threw tennis ball-sized hailstones onto the city.
More thunderstorms are predicted for today and tomorrow.
Witnesses said yesterday's deluge left some buildings looking like they had been bombed.
A spokesman for North Coast Area Health said 17 people were taken to Lismore Base Hospital's emergency department with cuts and bruises after being hit by hailstones or broken glass.
The storm caused extensive damage across Lismore and Bexhill.
A spokeswoman for Lismore City Council said almost every council-owned building in the CBD had been damaged, ranging from roof and water damage at the airport and the Brunswick Street depot, to smashed windows at the City Hall.
"The City Hall has massive damage on the western and southern end," the spokeswoman said. "People down there say it looks like a bomb's gone off."
Council staff worked through the night to patch the damage. Also badly damaged was the Telstra building, which the spokeswoman said looked 'like a war zone'.
Cars across the city were badly damaged, with hundreds suffering dents and smashed windscreens from the hail. An NRMA spokesman said that by 6pm the company had received about 600 claims, most of them for cars, with many more expected.
Nigel Swift, of windscreen replacement company Swift Autoglass, said yesterday afternoon he had handled more than 200 calls from motorists caught in the storm.
Mr Swift said extensive hail damage to a new car could cost between $10,000 and $15,000 to fix completely. That figure, along with the number of calls spread evenly across Lismore's four windscreen repairers, would add up to a damage bill on cars alone of up to $12 million.
Lismore Unlimited president Mark Willoughby, whose own business Newtrain was damaged in the storm, said the damage to businesses he had seen would easily reach into millions.
The Bureau of Meteorology issued a severe thunderstorm warning for the region yesterday saying Lismore had been hit with 'giant hail the size of tennis balls'.
It predicts more thunderstorms today and tomorrow.
However, senior forecaster Jane Golding said those storms would not match the ferocity of yesterday; or even of Monday's storm.
Ms Golding said yesterday's storm intensified when it combined with a trough off the coast and a southerly change. For today and%tomorrow there was no trough%expected off the coast.