‘Then all of a sudden everything exploded
and I was pinned to
the kitchen sink, with
wood all over me;
I was so lucky that
I got off my
There might be debate about the exact nature of the extreme weather phenomenon that unleashed its fury on the small residential area at Palmers Island, but there was no doubt about the havoc it left in its wake last Saturday afternoon.
Most of the damage was most likely caused by a tornado associated with a relatively small storm cell that approached from the north-northwest: there was minor damage at Woombah before it swept down Dalley Street at Palmers Island and continued southwards along the similarly aligned Palmers Island Middle Road.
Dennis Knock’s house lost almost all of its top level. “I was sitting on the lounge and I could see the rain coming,” he said.
“It started blowing a little bit and, because I’m building a new back balcony, I’ve gone and looked out through my kitchen window.
“Then all of a sudden everything exploded and I was pinned to the kitchen sink, with wood all over me; I was so lucky that I got off my lounge.
“I cut my leg and fingers, but only scratches. But if I’d been sitting on my lounge, I would have been covered in broken glass.
“It happened in 30 seconds.
“Grant [Neilson] was under his house; he just thought his bins had got blown over (laughs). Then he came out and saw my house all over his house. (more laughs).
“How’s that beam: straight through my carport roof; that’s amazing.”
Mr Neilson said the storm was “really quick; I was oblivious to it, to be honest”.
“I thought, ‘gee, it’s pretty blowy and a bit rainy’. I walked out the front. I thought, ‘Dennis has lost a bit of his roof’.
“Then I ran over to see him, and his whole house had collapsed on him. Dennis was lucky that he was in the kitchen.”
Another resident, Michelle, who lives next door to a house in Gordon Street that lost the back section of its roof, said the storm was a “very frightening 30 seconds of madness”.
“It was that quick,” she said. “I came out and my next door neighbour’s roof was beside her house.
“She’s lost the whole back of her house. We were lucky; it didn’t upend ours, just our trees – the jacarandas.
“[Part] of Julie’s roof went flying over Bill’s house, straight into Shannon’s shed and demolished it.”
Mr Neilson said “the wind and the rain [came] in from the northwest”.
“You’ve got people there with north facing verandas: it’s come in under their verandas and lifted their roofs clean off.
“A fair bit of stuff has hit my house and done a bit of a job on my car; next door, he’s got smashed windows; debris was just flying everywhere.”
The Australian Bureau of Meteorology’s (BOM) website says: “Tornadoes occur more commonly in NSW than most people would expect.
“The BOM’s database records 364 tornadoes across NSW from 1795 to June 2003. Most tornadoes in NSW occur in late spring and summer, but they have been known to occur at all times of the year.
“Tornadoes range in size from a few tens of metres across, up to around one kilometre in diameter. Because of this, damage is normally restricted to a small area, but is very intense.
“Tornadoes are thought to be formed by the interaction between regions of strong updrafts and downdrafts of air within severe thunderstorm clouds.”