WE WERE THERE: Hail hammers Lismore, tornado trashes Dunoon
WE WERE THERE is a series that revisits The Northern Star's in-depth coverage of the major events that have shaped the Northern Rivers over the past 20 years. Today, we look back at the paper's reporting of the of the biggest hail storm to hit Lismore in recent memory and the tornado that smashed Dunoon.
LISMORE residents will never forget when tennis ball-sized hailstones pummelled the city in 2007.
It was October 9, a Tuesday about 1.15pm, when Mother Nature unleased her fury causing tens of millions of dollars damage and The Northern Star captured the devastation.
Witnesses told reporters some buildings littered with smashed windows looked like they had been bombed.
Lismore Base Hospital treated 17 people with cuts and bruises received when they were hit by hailstones or broken glass.
Two days after the freak storm, NSW Emergency Services Minister Nathan Rees declared Lismore a natural disaster zone with a damage bill of "$6 million and rising".
The then Lismore mayor, Merv King, said the storm was the worst he had seen in his 75 years.
Almost every council-owned building in the CBD was damaged, with City Hall copping "massive damage" and broken windows.
The streets of the Lismore CBD were a scene of devastation, littered with leaves and vegetation and covered in hailstones, some piles up to 20cm thick in parts.
Cars copped the brunt of the hail, with NRMA insurance receiving about 600 calls about claims from residents on the day of the storm.
A special insurance assessment day was later held at the Lismore Showground.
Bureau of Meteorology senior forecaster Jane Golding said the storm intensified when it combined with a trough off the coast and a southerly change.
Then, 17 days later, the village of Dunoon was torn apart when a tornado hit on October 26.
The twister struck about 4pm leaving behind a swathe of devastation through the town.
The tornado blew the walls out of St Matthew's Anglican Church, ripped walls and roofs off about 20 houses and felled power lines in at least three places.
Will Mercer said it was like something straight out of the movie Twister.
"It was spiralling round and round. It was a massive great big thing," he said.
"There was debris in the air, sheets of iron, all sorts of stuff."
Grab tomorrow's Northern Star to see how we covered the Bentley gas protest.