How the Daily News reported the storm that swept Murwillumbah on March 18, 2004.
How the Daily News reported the storm that swept Murwillumbah on March 18, 2004.

Remembering the big storm

BY PETER CATON

STEVE Ravese clearly remembers this day one year ago.

His garden business, Arkinda Nursery, bore the brunt of damage in the Murwillumbah CBD from the worst storm ever to hit the town.

"I will never forget it," he said yesterday.

"I just got home; I took the lid of a stubby and took my first sip and got a phone call."

The call was to tell him the nursery next to Sunnyside Shopping Centre had been partly flattened by a falling tree and winds, later estimated to have gusted at up to 100km/h, had ripped through his plant stock.

The wild storm - some say tornado - struck the town around 6pm on March 18 last year.

The winds felled a 14-metre high brachychyton tree on the rear boundary of the nursery with branches crushing one building. Nursery plants were flattened, ceramic pots smashed and tables and chairs from a coffee shop in the grounds thrown about.

But yesterday the nursery was picture perfect - with a little more light at the back where the tree once stood.

"It was good. It opened the area up," said Mr Ravese.

"I'm just sorry we didn't keep more of logs," he added, pointing to several saved logs now used as features and stands around the garden centre.

Retired Murwillumbah district farmer, Norman Ripps, whose new Belle View Heights house was damaged in the storm, along with dozens of others, says he will also always remember the wild evening.

"I reckon it was a tornado," he said.

The roof on Mr Ripps' home in the new housing estate on Murwillumbah's western side was lifted about five centimetres and would have been blown off had it not been tied by steel into the building's concrete foundations.

One window was blown in with such force that the frame was ripped from its brackets.

Mr Ripps believes the area is in for much more wild weather this year.

"The weather patterns are all out all over the world," he said.

"We are 25 years overdue for a major flood and last July was the first July in 123 years that it did not rain according to the Daily News rain record."

At Murwillumbah Golf Course yesterday lady golfers played their weekly rounds in picturesque surroundings that were a far cry from the devastation of a year ago.

The golf course lost half its trees in the wild weather.



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