Bolt out of the wild blue yonder

*Check out more storm photos here.

KOOTINGAL man Glenn Michell had a lucky escape in the midst of Sunday's destructive storm front when lightning struck his work shed, knocking him to the ground.

Mr Michell is the workshop manager at the Moonbi Service Station and was at work on Saturday when he saw the storm coming about 2.30pm.

He said when he saw it approaching from the west, he knew it would be a bad one and his fears were well founded just a few minutes later when it swept over the village, with howling wind preceding heavy rain.

He took shelter in the shed and tried unsuccessfully to close the door, the strength of the gusts making the task impossible.

Just as he was moving further into the shed away from the door, the bolt of lightning struck.

“There was a bang and a bright, white light and I found myself on the ground,” Mr Michell said.

He was shaken but otherwise okay, receiving a check-up before being back on the job yesterday. 

“That’s probably the biggest fright I’ve had. It really shook me up,” Mr Michell said.

When the storm passed, the extent of the damage was clear – aside from his close encounter, a large tree on the other side of the service station had also been struck, splintering and crushing a number of cars parked underneath it.

Across the road at the Moonbi branch of Tamworth Rural, a section of the corrugated iron roof had been ripped away and hurled across the New England Highway, snapping powerlines just up from the service station and ending up in a creek bed.

A man who went to check on the damage to Tamworth Rural told branch manager Shane Rankin he could feel the charge from the fallen electricity wires and quickly heeded a warning from Mr Michell not to cross the road. 

Mr Rankin and colleague Mark Power were back in business yesterday, minus about a 30sqm section of their roof, but counting themselves fortunate it wasn’t worse.

The strength of the wind actually shifted one of the walls that held the missing section of roof by a couple of inches, bending a metal support beam.

Moonbi resident Chris Davies described the storm to The Leader as “frightening” and said he’d never seen the wind so strong.

Power was restored to most of the village in the early hours of yesterday m orning.

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