Life gets back to normal

MONDAY marked a year since tornadoes left a trail of destruction through the municipality, and some residents are still rebuilding their homes - and their lives.

As a result of the tornadoes 413 homes were damaged, 48 people were displaced and 17 properties were deemed uninhabitable. The fire station roof was blown off and the Kiama Leisure Centre was badly damaged and closed for much of last year.

Kay and Brian Robinson's 157-year-old Jamberoo property resembled a bomb site for months.

The masses of large trees, most of which they planted when they bought the farm in Minnamurra Lane more than 30 years ago, were ripped out of the ground - roots and all.

Mr Robinson thought he was going to die during the tornado's peak.

"I heard a mighty bang, and the roof had come off the house," he said.

Mrs Robinson said the couple were lucky to be alive.

"We can't believe our house got hit - you would never think in a million years you'd get hit by a tornado," she said.

"It's like winning the lotto, (but) you don't want to win that lotto."

The couple have been living in Jamberoo and received a vital phone call late last year.

"[Insurers] GIO rang us on Christmas Eve to say, 'we'll re-build your home', which was a nice Christmas present," Mr Robinson said.

"But there's been so many people worse off than us, like people in Katoomba."

A couple of weeks ago, builders began the repairs, due to be completed by September.

"We were just waiting for some news... Took a little bit of a toll on our health," Mrs Robinson said.Much of the debris having been cleared, Mr Robinson still visits the farm daily.

"Our family has worked hard, pitched in and tried to help," Mr Robinson said.

"There's still plenty of hard work to be done around the place."

Kiama SES unit deputy controller John Wall said the organisation learned valuable lessons from the natural disaster.

He said the tornadoes were only the second occasion in 14 years that Kiama's emergency operations centre had been used in a full emergency.

"We learnt a lot about managing a large operation with many, many agencies being involved, but with us being in command of the incident," Mr Wall said.

In September, Kiama MP Gareth Ward hosted a forum to brainstorm ways communities could better prepare for future disasters.

Mr Wall said opportunities to talk to the community had proven useful in terms ofdisaster planning, such as relayinginformation by hosting regular meetings.

He said social media had also proved invaluable. "We had Facebook for 12 months or so, but it really came to the fore in that emergency," he said.

"[We were] putting information up there, about issues with asbestos or power, as we were responding to the emergency."

However, Mr Wall said it was vital to seek other ways to inform the community.

"We learnt some valuable lessons about communicating with the wider community, as well as to work with the community to educate them on what the channels of communication are for times of emergency," he said.

Council general manager Michael Forsyth said it was pleasing most residents lives were back to normal.

The council estimate the tornadoes cost the commuity more than $2.65 million.

"The opening of the repaired and upgraded Leisure Centre in September has been greatly appreciated by residents and the community," he said.

The council is a member of the Emergency Planning Committee and it debriefed with emergency services following the tornadoes.

A recovery action plan was developed and the actions have been implemented, the council said. The Emergency Management Plan is also under review.

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