Severe thunderstorms have caused widespread damage on the New South Wales north coast this afternoon.
The State Emergency Service has reported receiving around 60 calls for help.
SES spokesperson, Jenny North, said most of the damage was in and around the town of Maclean, where severe winds ripped roofs off a number of buildings and brought down powerlines.
A school in Maclean also received some damage, and there were also people camping at the showground, which suffered damage.
“We have had reports of damage to the showground roof, various council buildings and even the Maclean SES has had some damage,” Ms North said.
Maclean resident James Ryan said it felt as though a cyclone ripped through the town.
“It started to rain, bit of lightning and then it just got stronger and stronger and stronger. Basically a cyclone hit, I think.”
Mr Ryan said the storm moved through extremely quickly.
“It was just, wow, just the way it intensified in a matter of half a minute or so,” he said.
“I was talking to a guy who worked at the Clarence Hotel and he said it was 43 years ago, the last time the roof came off.”
SES crews respond to calls for help
Ms North said crews were responding to calls for assistance and extra help was being brought into the area.
“We’ve got some extra resources going in to assist, the Yamba Unit and the other emergency service will also be assisting there,” she said.
“We do ask people if they need assistance to ring through on 132 500 and if it is life threatening, or there is floodwater involved, please call triple-zero.”
Ms North said residents should also keep a watch on any further storm warnings.
“There are some storms forecast for tomorrow, but the Bureau has advised the forecast isn’t as severe as today. However we do advise people to keep an eye on the Bureau’s website for current warnings,” she said.
Meanwhile the Maclean office of the Clarence Valley Council will be closed tomorrow (Wednesday) so storm-related repairs to the building can be undertaken.
More storms than usual expected this summer
The Bureau of Meteorology said the region’s seasonal thunderstorms were likely to be more common this year, due to higher levels of humidity.
Bureau forecaster, Jake Phillips, said residents should expect more hail, heavy rain and lightening in the coming months.
“Climatologists are suggesting the months ahead are likely to be a bit more humid than average with a bit higher than average rainfall,” he said.
“That does make the environment a bit more susceptible to thunderstorm development.
“It’s only the start of January and storm activity usually sees a peak in December and January, but we see quite a lot of storm activity through March sometimes even April.”