ONCE the first report of damage was received about 3am Sunday morning, close to 300 emergency workers from around the region mobilised throughout the day at the Kiama SES headquarters.
In the hours from midnight Saturday until Monday the SES received some 390 calls for assistance throughout the region.
180 calls in Kiama. As of Monday at least three of those homes had been deemed uninhabitable with another five still to be assessed.
Some 80 homes have been damaged in Kiama, more than 30 in Jamberoo (six partial roof removals) and at least one in Werri Beach (roof off). More than ten houses in Kiama had their roofs totally removed.
The crews were made up of Fire and Rescue NSW, Rural Fire Service, NSW Ambulance and Police.
Public Works Engineers, Department of Agriculture, Department of Family Services, Red Cross, RSPCA, Endeavour Energy and council contract tradespeople.
The first job of the morning for volunteer was removing the Fire Station roller door and assessing the loss the building’s roof.
Once on site in the dark, crews discovered the most badly affected homes were in a block within Minnamurra Street, Hothersal Street Gipps, Street, Antrim Street, Pacific Street, Colley Drive and Swan Place.
The storm then cut across Terralong street taking the roof of the Fire Station with it, leaving car-sized holes in the roof of the Leisure Centre, twisting trees and ripping them out along Havilah Place and smashing glass doors and twisting door frames in the Blue Haven residential units.
It then continued through the Kiama Sports Complex, past the Skate Park and across the Princes Highway, hitting areas of Cedar Ridge, impacting most heavily on Bele Pace and Cedar Ridge Rd. The swathe then moved into Jamberoo, flattening vegetation in its path hitting Minnamurra Lane, the golf course, Tate Place and Drualla Rd most heavily.
In the pre-dawn hours about 20 people were evacuated to the SES headquarters for a short time with nominated evacuation centres the Leisure Centre and the Leagues Club, damaged and without power, respectively.
The town was put into lock-down with whole streets cut off and people urged to stay away from the area for much of the morning as Endeavour Energy dealt with numerous live power lines.
Throughout Sunday and the days ahead asbestos management from damaged house and the Kiama Leisure Centre has become the most challenging aspect of the clean up operation.
Kiama Council will remove asbestos in public places and footpaths. Contract asbestos specialists Affective Services are offering quotes for removal from private properties.
SES regional controller Murphy confirmed asbestos was the major issue for residents, council and emergency services.
Mr Murphy praised an SES already stretched for resources due to the flood
He said the emergency services and other agencies had worked seamlessly together and thanked out-of-area strikeforce teams.
Kiama SES Unit deputy controller John Wall said asbestos was a major concern to volunteers. He said while the material was initially wet it posed minimal risk but that as it dried volunteers were using masks and would have to have uniforms destroyed.
On Monday SES and RFS officers door knocked residents who needed to evacuate while the asbestos is removed.
Ambulance Service of NSW district inspector Norm Rees said the service had received just one call for assistance to a treat a woman who had received multiple cuts to here face and eye. She was later transported to the Sydney Eye Hospital.
Mr Rees said the services had been on standby for evacuation and also to provide any necessary support to crews on the ground working in hazardous situations around trees, roofs, debris and glass.
Given the scale of the devastation Mr Rees said it was amazing more people were not badly injured.
‘‘When something like this happens, that does not affect us directly we hear about it or see it on TV and it’s hard to imagine but when you see the first-hand the amount of damage we’re as surprised as anybody. Driving in here this morning, it was like like ‘bloody hell, this has been nasty’,’’ he said.
‘‘We have also managed our personnel so we can keep local crews here as we have a preference for local knowledge to some of the more remote areas like Jamberoo.’’
Police will be conducting increased patrols around the affected areas with unsecured homes.
Power was cut to about 48,000 homes in the region as a result of the storm as of Monday morning it had been returned to all but around 500 homes. People wandered along the normally jostling Terralong Street CBD looking at shut shops, with Woolworths the only shop able to operate. Only a few handful of shops re-opened when the majority of power was restored at about 2pm.
Residents in affected areas can freely dispose of green waste caused by the storm at the Minnamurra Waste Collection Facility until Monday, March 11. This date will be reviewed to consider whether an extension is necessary. Residents will need to provide a rates notice or a driver’s licence.
Residents in storm-affected areas can dispose of non-contaminated small debris waste for free at the Dunmore Waste Depot. To be eligible residents must go to the Minnamurra Recycling Depot and provide identification to receive a voucher, which can then be used to dispose of the waste for free at the Dunmore Waste Depot.
Kiama Council trucks will be also collect green waste and other non-contaminated materials from the footpath areas of streets affected by yesterday’s storm event. The public are requested, where possible, to place the materials on the kerb-side, off the road and clear for pedestrian access.
Storage King at Albion Park Rail is offering free storage for one month storm victims.
For more information, call Tim Collins on 42568566.
In between calling for their two missing cats and their daughter, Sarah, picking through personal items which were mostly ruined, they recounted the events of the terrifying winds that all but tore off the top storey of their home.
Woken by the wind that started around 3am, Mrs Martin checked on her daughters, Sarah and Rebecca. Confident they were OK, she closed the door and was then thrown backwards into a wall.
Police hammered on the door, telling them their house was about to collapse and to get out immediately.
"I am amazed we weren't hurt - I am amazed it didn't wake me up!" Mr Martin said.
"The police almost dragged us about by the collar. I was lucky they let me get dressed."
While expressing sympathy that his neighbour's fence had been knocked down while the rest of the house was unscathed, Mr Martin was philosophical about the damage and loss of their uninsured house contents.
"This is a once in a lifetime event," he said.
"Some people are saying a mini cyclone, mini tornado- even a waterspout."
Across the road, C.N. Wong was asleep in her bedroom fronting Minnamurra Drive, when the tiles flew through her bedroom windows. Some tiles embedded at head level in the opposite wall.
Ms Wong managed to take shelter in the bathroom, but late on Sunday she, partner John Gebbie and daughter Peonie realised how lucky they had been and exhaustedly continued the task of clearing up debris and shattered glass.
"It was horrific, just horrific," Mr Gebbie said.
"All the glass shattering sounded like bullets."
The Martins' story and that of their neighbours were among the scores of countless extraordinary stories to emerge in the aftermath of the storm which carved out a 100-200m wide strip from Kiama to Jamberoo.