Twister leaves trail of destruction
By HELEN JACK
FRIDAY'S tornado was like hell's fury unleashed on the tiny village of Dunoon.
The twister took only 10 minutes to demolish a church, two houses, an amenities block, severely damage 20 other homes, and nearly destroy an electrical sub-station.
The tornado hit at 4pm, the culmination of a day of storms born on the Northern Tablelands before moving north towards the coast.
By the time the storms reached Casino in the mid-afternoon, they were deemed severe by the Bureau of Meteorology, with one randomly turning into a super storm cell.
As it neared Lismore, updrafts of air inside the super storm began to rotate, spinning faster and faster like a skater on ice. No rain fell to quell the winds.
Then the super storm turned left towards Dunoon, building in intensity until it transformed into a tornado touching down on the edge of town.
The electrical sub-station on the outskirts of Dunoon exploded in a shower of sparks as a sheet of roofing iron was hurled into its circuitry by the twisting winds.
Double brick walls of St Matthews Anglican Church were blown outwards, spraying bricks across landscaped lawns while bibles and cushions remain resting on pews barely touched.
Next door the house owned by the Wheelwright family stands without a roof, lifted off and discarded like old tissues across nearby paddocks.
Amazingly houses across the road remained untouched.
Classrooms at the rear of Dunoon School exploded, their roof and two walls ripped off and pulverised, piled like kindling only five metres away.
Books shelves, chairs, desks and school books were hurled across 30m of school yard.
A knitted teddy bear lay wet and tattered across the bough of a fallen tree.
Dunoon RSL Sports Club Manager Bernadette Ross was unprepared for what met her when she returned to her home along The Channon Road.
Trapped at the club during the tornado, Ms Ross' home was destroyed.
A nearby tree, snapped off by the tornado and tossed onto the roof, caved in the iron and smashed the walls.
The strength of the rotating winds had sucked the house up and off its foundations.
The rear rooms were gone, reduced to matchsticks.
In shock, Ms Ross just sat with a friend in her front yard.
On Saturday morning, residents, SES and Rural Fire Service crews were out in force. They were busy cleaning what looked like more like a war zone than a peaceful village.
SES region controller Scott Henkel said as a result of the tornado the Lismore City Council area was once again declared a natural disaster zone with 150 SES and RFS crew in the field responding to 107 requests for assistance and helping to clean-up.
Crews have come from across the Northern Rivers as well as Yamba, Grafton, Nambucca Heads and Glen Innes.
Country Energy community relations manager Mike Hely said 3000 homes and businesses in Dunoon, Nimbin, Rosebank and Clunes lost power overnight Friday.
Power was restored by 1am Saturday morning, with repairs to damaged power lines in the area completed by Saturday afternoon.