MORE than 3000 households were left without power last night as severe winds uprooted trees, damaged houses, brought down power lines and shattered fences.
One 38-year-old Kyogle woman is lucky to be alive after a gum tree fell onto her car as she drove along the Summerland Way near Kyogle at about 4.10pm yesterday.
Emergency workers were called in from as far away as Tabulam as the SES responded to 47 calls from Casino, Lismore, Mullumbimby and Tweed Heads.
Casino was the worst hit with 37 households requiring help after winds reaching 91km/h were measured at the airport at 4.05pm.
Many of those were around Knoetzechs Road, North Casino, which also reported an intense hail storm.
While there was some structural damage to houses along the road, residents were talking of a lucky escape as trees narrowly missed homes and rooves stayed mostly intact.
Lyn Kohl, who lives with her daughter Maria Moy and her family, described the storm as ferocious.
“It came through about 4.10pm and lasted about 50 minutes,” she said.
“There was just this tremendous amount of lightning and the wind was so furious. I thought the roof was going to come off.
“We had a magnificent maple tree near the house and it was hit by lightning.
“The force of the wind behind this sheet of rain was amazing. In 25 years I’ve never seen anything like it.”
The stable at the Moy’s property was damaged with two horses, Claire and Coco, left cowering inside as strips of the roof were ripped up.
“It was just so quick. One minute it was a fine hot sunny day and the next thing it was on you,” Ms Kohl said.
The Moy’s next-door neighbour, who wished to remain anonymous, had the roof of her veranda picked up and blown over the house, such was the ferocity of the wind.
“I’ve never heard anything like it,” she said.
“It was just this terrible scream. It was very, very loud. There was lightning, lots of lightning ... trees coming down and plenty of hail.”
Further down the road Tony Watego and his family were thankful their property escaped serious damage.
Although without power, a live wire was brought down outside the house, broken branches and weeks of clearing up was the extent of their damage.
“At first I just thought it was a standard storm, a bit of wind and a bit of hail but then it just went phwoar,” Mr Watego said.
The Wategos also ended up with horses Cool Little Rock and Siricco, who escaped through some downed fences, from their next door neighbour Kris Jarrett.
Within half an hour 48mm of rain fell in Casino, swamping much of the town and forcing Woolworths to close for two hours as water an inch deep rushed through the shopping centre.
“The roof didn’t hold,” store manager Jamie Olive said.
“No-one was injured but we had about $500 worth of damage to stock.”
A Bureau of Meteorology spokesman said it was one of the most severe thunderstorms the area had received for some time.
He said the storm first hit Mallanganee, then Bonalbo before travelling to Casino and Nimbin where 54mm of rain was eventually dumped.
Hail stones three to four centimetres in diameter were reported in Casino and Fernside.
Power lines started a small grass fire at The Channon which was quickly put out by the rural fire brigade.
Country Energy spokesman Mike Hely said 40 power workers were called in to repair damaged power lines. He said most power in larger centres would be restored by late last night, with more isolated areas to be fixed this morning.