‘It was like a hurricane’: Terrifying storm hits hard
UPDATE NOON: It might have lasted for only a minute but for Palmers Island residents who experienced Saturday's frightening storm that was more than enough.
They had watched a storm front go past the village during the hot and humid afterrnoon, but then about an hour later it swung around and smashed through Dalley and Gordon streets, leaving a trail of destruction that included at least two houses destroyed, others badly damaged and debris widely scattered.
Angela Zammit and her family were watching the storm approach when it suddenly hit their home and their neighbours in a furious burst.
"In less than a minute it went from windy and raining to something like a hurricane coming through," she said.
"The roof blew of Dennis's house and that flew past ours, part of our roof flew off and someone's hot water system was blown into our house and bashed a hole in the wall."
The Zammits' garage and tinnie were smashed to pieces, while much of another neighbour's house wound up in their backyard.
"It completely knocked out one side of our house where my daughter's bedroom is; she was about to walk into the room when it hit."
The roof the Zammits saw blow past came from the home of Dennis Knock, who watched 30 years of building get destroyed in 30 seconds.
"My TV survived, that's one good thing, and so did my surfing trophies," he said from among the debris of what used to be the second floor of his house.
"The rain was getting pretty heavy and the wind was getting pretty heavy so I got off my lounge and went into my kitchen.
"I saw the hail hitting my carport roof and then a giant explosion. I was trapped against my kitchen sink with just rain pouring all over me and looking at the sky, and then it was all over, in 30 seconds."
SES crews continue to help patch up damaged homes in Palmers Island, while Essential Energy workers are working to restore power.
Clarence-Nambucca SES community engagement co-ordinator Jenni Funari said it was a reminder for people who might have escaped Saturday's damage to listen to warnings and prepare for storms by bringing in loose items in yards and trimming overhead branches.
SUNDAY 9AM: PARTS of Palmers Island have been left looking like a war zone after what could have been a small tornado ripped through the village at the height of Saturday's storms.
As many as 20-30 houses have been left seriously damaged, with trees uprooted and debris widely scattered. A small number of houses were reported as destroyed.
At least one person was taken to hospital, a man who was trapped under a collapsed wall of his house.
Damage was reported throughout out the Clarence Valley, from Seelands to Iluka, with most reports from the Lower River, including incidents at Woombah and Wooloweyah, and power was out over a wide area.
Wind gusts over 50kmh were measured at Grafton and Yamba about 3-4pm on Saturday but the level of damage at Palmers Island and in other areas indicates isolated winds well in excess of that.
The Higgins Storm Chasing Facebook page said while there was no evidence that the storm at Palmers Island created tornado-like conditions, the level of damage indicated that was likely.
Latest reports indicate the electricity supply is still cut between Palmers Island and Yamba in a path that follows Yamba Road.