Worst in 65 years: Bingara cleans up after hailstorm rips through town

BINGARA residents are counting the cost after a wild storm on Saturday night battered their small town.

Described by one local man as the worst he'd seen in 65 years, the storm smashed windows and caused severe damage to cars, caravans, roofs, gardens and anything else in its path.

Another younger man was even knocked to the ground and suffered a minor head wound from a hailstone as he tried to save his car from the worst of the storm.

Hailstones were reportedly sized between golf, cricket and tennis balls.

Local State Emergency Service crews, with help from Warialda, had plenty of windows and skylights to clean up and cover.

The unwelcome visitor stayed for less than an hour, but unleashed its full fury while it was there, leaving the townsfolk to clean up the aftermath.

Gwydir Shire Council general manager Max Eastcott said he was not in the town when the storm struck, but was yesterday picking up the pieces it left behind.

"At least four public buildings were damaged and we have been boarding up smashed windows," he said.

"In one building every window on the north-facing side was smashed and there had been water intrusion into the ceiling, with some roof damage.

"Along the treeline you can see all these trees have been denuded of their leaves, so they look like sticks.

"Given the damage, a significant number of private dwellings have also been damaged."

Mr Eastcott said the council's damage bill would be more than its insurance policy's excess.

Aged care facility Touriandi Lodge suffered damage to its skylights.

Grahame Bateman said his caravan was damaged and the hail broke through the clear roofing of his carport.

"I've never seen anything like it last night," Mr Bateman said.

"Old mate across the road, the sunroof in the caravan had hail go straight through it. It was bigger than bloody golf balls."

Mr Bateman said the rain and hail quickly filled the gutters and chopped his garden up.

“I had a beautiful garden with tomatoes, cucumbers and beans and there’s not a thing left,” he said.

“My next-door neighbour’s solar hot water system has got dints all over it. It broke windows across town.”

Mr Bateman said he’d lived in Bingara for 65 years and it was the worst storm he’d experienced.

“I’ve never seen bloody hail like that before,” he said.

Gordon and June Fletcher said their beautiful garden hadn’t been hit too hard, with most of the damage around the main street area.

“We were one of the lucky ones, because we have shutters over our windows that face north,” Mrs Fletcher said.

“You could hear it, though. I haven’t heard it like that before and the lightning went on and on. It wasn’t here that long, but there were big chunks of hail.”

Bingara SES controller Peter Turnbull said the SES had spent the night covering windows and skylights damaged by hail.

“There are very few trees down, though, because the wind was not that strong,” he said.

“The hail did most of the damage. As you look up to the lookout, all the trees have been denuded.”

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