Lightning strikes Kiama chimney

A CRACK of thunder interrupted Gary Falson's Grisham novel during Wednesday's storm, but he didn't immediately realise lightning had stuck his Kiama home's chimney, causing at least $5000 damage.

State Emergency Service volunteers worked for two hours to repair damage caused by the strike, which occurred about 4.30pm at the Irvine Street property. 

Mr Falson said the lightning ‘‘hit smack in the middle’’ of his chimney and split it in half.

Pieces of brick were found in their yard a hundred feet away. 

‘‘I was reading and heard a few bangs and didn’t take much notice... (I thought) it was just a bit of lightning and thunder,’’ he said. 

‘‘The weight of the bricks coming down split the tiles and then water was coming from there into the bathroom.

‘‘It would have been about four feet, cut in half.

‘‘I was in the middle of the chapter and was annoyed because of the noise.

‘‘My wife ran out, panicked and said, ‘there’s bricks everywhere’. 

‘‘Everything electronic just blew at the time.  

‘‘The SES came out within about half an hour, (plus) the police rescue squad and another rescue vehicle.’’

Mr Falson said much of the damage had been patched up with second-hand tiles, and strong tape around the outside of the chimney. 

‘‘Hopefully that will stay until the assessor comes on Monday,’’ he said.

Mr Falson described it as a ‘‘freak’’ occurrence, particularly as his property had narrowly avoided damage during last year’s tornadoes. While confident insurance would cover the costs, he estimated that the damage could total at least $5000, which included new tiles and re-building the chimney. 

‘‘Lucky I was inside reading Grisham,’’ he said.

Neighbour Sylvia Allen told Fairfax Media she was reading quietly when she heard two loud claps of thunder followed by a ‘‘huge bang’’.

‘‘I didn’t know what had happened,’’ Ms Allen said.

‘‘My neighbours on the other side phoned me to find out if I was ok.’’

Ms Allen said she felt lucky the strike had missed her own chimney.

‘‘Perhaps next door, which is a bit higher, caught it unfortunately,’’ she said.

‘‘I’m not really the sort of person who gets too upset about things like that...I’ve been lucky on this occasion and I don’t suppose it’ll ever happen again. 

‘‘Fortunately there wasn’t too much damage – the SES were wonderful, I know my neighbours were very impressed with them.’’

SES acting region controller Ashley Sullivan said six volunteers repaired tile damage.

He said it was rare for the SES to respond to lightning strikes.

‘‘It’s not a regular occurrence for us to get called to roofs damaged by lightning,’’ he said.

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