CLOSE CALL: Lucky escape for family during freak storm
A SINGLE mother of three is thanking a pine tree growing in their front yard for saving their home.
The tree in the front yard of the Ellandgrove bungalow caught a neighbour's roof and stopped it from crashing into their home during a freak storm that tore through the area late on Saturday afternoon.
Stevie Martin, her three children, Oliver, 7, Lachlan, 5 and two-year-old Darcey-Lee and her parents had been enjoying a quiet afternoon around the pool when the storm approached after 6pm.
"The first we noticed was a few spots of rain and we noticed it was looking a bit dark, so we got the kids out of the water and put the cars under cover," Ms Martin said.
"Then it hit. It just came out of nowhere. And just as quickly it was all over.
"If the tree hadn't stopped the roof it would have hit the house, or dad's four-wheel drive he'd parked out the front.
"As it was it had a smashed windscreen and damage all up the side from what had hit it."
She estimated all the damage was done in one totally mad minute.
"The noise was unreal, you couldn't hear anything above the roar," she said.
The scene in the family's front yard was both surreal and like a war zone.
"The roof came from the entertainment area of the house across the road," Ms Martin said.
"He had a collection of about 500 drink coolers and they were everywhere over the front yard.
"The kids spent Sunday morning gathering them up to give back to him."
Ms Martin also believes a surfboard, complete with down lights, was another ornament blown into her yard.
She said it appeared the storm, which also snapped off two mature trees in her backyard, struck on an extremely narrow front.
"Most of the damage seems to be just here, next door had a few broken windows then there is nearly nothing," she said.
The Bureau of Meteorology confirmed the storm activity was freakish and localised.
A spokesman for the BoM's Severe Weather Department, Zach Porter, said the storm radar in the area showed the storm developing in a 20 minute period.
"A line of weak storm cells was approaching from the west," he said. "We could see them intensify for a short period."
He said conditions were unlikely to have caused a tornado to form, but they did allow them to intensify briefly.
"It's likely the hot dry air in the storm fronts met the cooler moist air in the North East sea breeze," he said.
"This creates a strong lifting movement to create localised storm conditions."
Mr Porter said there was no chance of predicting such localised weather, as none of the evidence available on Saturday pointed to such a freak development.
"The radar only sweeps the area every 10 minutes, so could only watch it develop over around 20 minutes," he said.
"We knew storms were coming through and measured them at Armidale and Glenn Innes, but wind gusts were only about 60kmh.
"That's quite strong, but nothing like the winds that must have been in that storm."