Seven days and thousands of person-hours after hail and a tornado ripped through Armidale, the clean-up continues, and the recovery is expected to last for at least another month.
It started with a severe thunderstorm, then came the dumping of hail, and the swift yet devastating tornado, before ending with the stars coming out not long after confused and scared residents did too, trying to make sense of the madness.
Streets all over the city suffered damage with the storm flipping cars, slicing through power lines, and trashing scores of homes shortly after 10pm on Thursday, last week.
"All emergency actions were completed by Sunday night, and we are now in recovery mode, which will go on for some time," Armidale Mayor Ian Tiley said. "And Armidale Regional Council is leading multiple agencies during the next phase of the massive clean-up."
The initial emergency response was led by the Armidale branch of State Emergency Services (SES). They attended to 310 calls in total and are now back to business as usual, apart from the occasional job to tighten a loosening tarpaulin.
"We are just in the stage now where we have to restock, service all our vehicles and equipment, and do the administration - my finance tray is overflowing," said SES deputy incident controller Jock Campbell.
More than 180 personnel were split into 28 teams comprised of SES, Rural Fire Service, BackTrack Youth Works, and the Volunteer Rescue Association to complete a total of 9000 hours of work in the first three days.
They worked alongside those serving in the NSW Police, Ambulance NSW, and NSW Fire Brigade, as well as Essential Energy and Armidale Regional Council (ARC) staff. In the end, twenty homes were condemned, with 11 needing to be bulldozed and nine needing partial demolition.
During their response, the SES went through 50 tonnes of sand, 4000 sandbags, 250 tarpaulins, and 20 kilometres of rope.
Many local businesses also jumped on board to support the crews' efforts, including the local Dominoes Pizza, who stepped up on Friday to provide $500 worth of pizza to feed the teams at the council depot, and JR Richards, who provided skip bins.
On Thursday, Cr Tiley spoke with His Excellency General, the Honourable David Hurley AC DSC (Retd), to update him on the situation.
"His Excellency rang to have me convey to the community that he is thinking of us during this difficult time and congratulate all those to all involved in the emergency response," Cr Tiley said.
"He was really enthused by the vibrancy and self-help that exists in the Armidale community, and he extended his congratulations."
As well as large-scale support from a raft of agencies, Cr Tiley said many private citizens also pitched in - including two cases where people sat with someone in their home waiting for emergency services to rescue them.
"There were individuals who bravely went into homes and obviously took risks of getting cut by glass or electrocuted," Cr Tiley said.
"Council is incredibly grateful to all those involved in the emergency response and ongoing recovery, including the many council staff."
Under the leadership of ARC chief of assets and infrastructure Alex Manners, most parks and public spaces staff have been focused on the natural disaster for most of the week.
"It has absolutely been a number one priority for Armidale Regional Council, and close to 100 per cent of the staff were working on the ground over the weekend, including office and administrative staff," Mr Manners said.
"Now, a large percentage of our outdoor staff are working on the recovery."
Resilience NSW attended the Incident Control Centre to support partner agencies in responding to the damage caused by the storm event in the Armidale region and according to Melissa Gore, Director, New England North West and Hunter Central Coast, Resilience NSW it was a text book response to a disaster.
"The close collaboration of the whole-of-government response has contributed to a seamless transition from response to recovery, with the Natural Disaster Declaration being made quickly due to the prompt sharing of data between agencies and the effective assessment of the impact," Ms Gore said.
More information on support can be accessed via the Recovery Assistance Point located within the Council's main office, or by calling 1300 136 833.
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