Hailstorm tears through Northern Rivers
Scenes of destruction were most obvious just south of Byron Bay, at Suffolk Park, where stripped vegetation littered the ground and the smell of eucalypt and pine wafted in the air.
According to one Tamarind Drive resident, the 10-minute storm was so intense he never heard the sound of a 15-year-old spotted gum as it smashed through his house.
“I was on the veranda only a few metres away from where the tree crashed into my house, yet I never head a thing above the roar of hail on my roof,” he said.
Ironically, the tree was due for removal tomorrow.
At the nearby Pinehaven Community Aged Care Centre, hail blocked gutters and drains and heavy rain afterwards leaked through light fixtures in the ceiling.
Acting director of care, Jenny Kinkead, said she had never seen anything like it before.
In Juliet Doty’s Suffolk Park garden all that remained of her hard work were the scent of crushed basil, mint and rosemary.
Her tomatoes and paw-paws were stripped bare and large drifts of hail were piled up against her fence a full three hours after the event.
Juliet’s husband Paul was playing golf nearby and had to run for cover as the storm hit, leaving himself and his golfing mates battered and bruised.
Juliet’s neighbour, Marc Browne, said he had never seen so much hail in so short a time.
“It was unbelievable,” he said. “You couldn’t hear yourself think.”
Country Energy linesman Bruce Grosse, based at Ewingsdale, said the storm knocked out power to most of Suffolk Park as high winds took their toll on equipment.
“We were up until 2am on Tuesday night after storms came through our area, and it looks like we’ll be up late again tonight,” he said.
“There’s nothing we can do. It’s just nature.”
McLeans Ridges storm chaser Michael Bath said a cold pool of air in the upper atmosphere and opposing surface winds created ripe conditions for the widespread thunderstorms.
But even the seasoned weatherman, who now works as an early warning manager for an online service, said he was surprised by the duration of yesterday’s wild storms.
What began as billowing cumulous about 11.30am south of Casino was still creating angry conditions well east of Moreton Island nine hours later.
Noel McAviney, of the Byron Bay SES, said they responded to 34 calls after the hailstorm.
Most were from people with broken skylights.
Tabulam, Lismore and Banora Point SES were called to assist with their operations.
Yesterday’s storm was so intense it prompted SES volunteers working to clear a leaking roof at Pinehaven Aged Care Centre to recall a storm in the early 1980s that literally blanketed Brunswick Heads with hail.
“That storm went on for hours and hours,” recalled one volunteer.
Be prepared this storm season:
Lismore storm season safety checklist