Tornado destroys 12 Lennox houses
NORTHERN Rivers residents battled catastrophic weather conditions yesterday, with a tornado destroying 12 houses, uprooting trees and powerlines and writing off cars and caravans at Lennox Head.
The freak twister, said to have measured 100m wide with wind speeds in excess of 150km/h, is believed to have struck around 7.30am.
Residents who witnessed the rare weather event described it as like a bomb going off.
Some of the worst devastation occurred at Lake Ainsworth Caravan Park where, early on, police and emergency workers feared a resident may have been killed in a crushed van. State Emergency Service staff called to the scene later found the caravan unoccupied.
It appeared two vans had been sandwiched together and destroyed by the force of the storm.
Along Stewart and Gibbon Streets, where the tornado blitzed its furious path, several multi-million dollar houses, some newly built, were left in ruins, with debris strewn across previously manicured lawns.
More than 100 callers rang Richmond Tweed SES for urgent assistance with a mother and daughter taken to hospital with minor head injuries and more than 50 emergency staff responding to requests for help.
“It was luck that only two people were injured,” said Deputy Controller Jeff Spash.
“It seems that, because of the time of morning, most people were still inside.”
Rural Fire Service’s Far North Coast group captain, Rex Kemp, said it was the worst damage he had seen in more than 20 years on the job.
“It’s just amazing,” he said.
“The devastation here is terrible.
“It really is very lucky that no-one was killed.”
At the height of the clean-up yesterday, SES staff were joined by five NSW Fire Brigade teams as well as the Rural Fire Service, police personnel and 40 technicians from Country Energy.
About 1200 homes in the main Lennox Head area and north of Byron Road lost power with an elderly lady in Pacific Street reliant on oxygen for life support forced to call emergency services.
Yesterday Country Energy customer relations manager Mike Hely said workers were going street by street disconnecting damaged lines and repairing poles that had been felled by the tornado.
“We hope that most people will have power back on by the close of today (Friday),” he said.
“Obviously we will not be reconnecting power to houses that have been virtually destroyed.”
Motorists suffered lengthy delays on the Pacific Highway north of Ballina while roads throughout the area were closed because of flooding with no definite forecasts about when they would reopen.
For more information on road conditions, go to www.myroads.info.com to check your local area.