(PHOTO: Mia Nalder, Coonamble Weir)
The storm that passed through the district last Thursday 3 December didn’t last long but it left a trail of devastation in its wake tearing roofs from buildings, bringing down trees and scattering debris across a wide area.
Arriving in Coonamble around 4.30pm, the storm brought raised dust reminiscent of drought-time dust storms along with high winds and heavy rain.
“We clocked 117 kilometre per hour winds inside the town limits,” said State Emergency Services (SES) volunteer Lane Lewis.
“There was about 20 millimetres of rain with that and hail in the initial fall.”
“We ended up with 40 incidents ranging from trees down to roofs off,” he said.
“A farmer who lost his house roof 14 kilometres west of Coonamble measured 130 kilometre per hour winds with his own weather station.”
SES Crews from Coonamble were assisted by NSW Fire & Rescue and SES crews from Gilgandra, Dubbo and Orange City were also brought in.
A tree came down in Wingadee Street on a parked car and a new arrival at Coonamble’s Riverside Caravan Park ran for cover as a large branch fell on his camping trailer.
Despite large amounts of flying debris, no injuries were reported.
Council staff quickly closed roads and worked to remove fallen trees and branches around town streets.
Sheets of iron, rooftop airconditioners and other materials could be seen scattered along roadways and footpaths.
An airconditioner from the roof of the Coonamble District Funeral Services building in Castlereagh Street landed more than five metres away on the roof of another structure in the yard.
“It was hazardous driving,” Mr Lewis said. “On my way to the station I had to dodge a wheelie bin cartwheeling across the road.”
“It was very lucky no-one was injured,” he said.
The SES reported that 22 buildings sustained roof damage and that four of those were commercial businesses.
Two were homes on rural properties west of Coonamble and the rest were in and around the township.
“One house just out of town lost its complete roof, there wasn’t a sheet of tin left on it,” Mr Lewis said.
“Overall we used around 30 tarpaulins and 1.5 kilometres of rope to tie them down.”
Residents and SES volunteers have spent the last few days cleaning up.
One farming family west of Coonamble says they are still collecting pink batt ceiling insulation from their lost roof which is hanging from trees and fences hundreds of metres from the house.
The Coonamble SES was still working on Monday 7 December.
“Because it went through so quickly we were able to get out after about fifteen minutes,” Mr Lewis said.
“We should be wrapped up by tonight.”
The storm that passed through Coonamble also did significant damage in Armidale and other areas.
A second cell on Saturday 5 December caused damage in Nevertire, Gilgandra and Dubbo.
“That next one came through with rain and wind – we got the edge of that and they got the eye,” Mr Lewis said.
“At the moment there are no direct warnings [of more storm activity] but it is storm season so we need to be prepared.”
This means cleaning out gutters, cleaning up loose objects from around yards and securing any loose roofing.
“When the storms come some people still don’t know who to call. If you need help after a storm call 132 500. It’s a similar process to 000,” Mr Lewis said.