‘I wasn’t meant to die today’: close calls as savage storm smashes Kurri Kurri

LUKE Apthorpe will wake up feeling lucky on Tuesday.

The Kurri Kurri business owner was looking out the front of his shop at a storm battering the town when a jagged hunk of wood speared through the window, missing him by centimetres.

“I rang my brother and said ‘I wasn’t meant to die today,” a relieved Mr Apthorpe said shortly after the storm, which tore through Kurri at about 2pm on Monday. 

The jagged shard of wood was part of a clump of debris, including a section of the Kurri Kurri Community Centre’s roof, that was blown across from Lang St to Barton St by fierce winds. 

“I went to look out the window because the noise of the storm was just incredible,” Mr Apthorpe said.

“All of a sudden a lump of timber flew through the window right next to me. My heart is still going.”

Mr Apthorpe shrugged off damage to the building, which is estimated to cost thousands of dollars, saying it was “lucky no one was killed”. 

The storm caused chaos throughout Kurri when it suddenly struck. Two people received non-life-threatening injuries when the roof partially collapsed at the community centre, while power lines and roofs were down and damaged across the town. 

By 10am Tuesday the State Emergency Service had registered 183 requests for assistance.

Cessnock Mayor Bob Pynsent has seen his fair share of heavy Hunter storms. 

He rates Monday’s belter at Kurri as “right up there intensity wise”.

Council crews were on the job early Tuesday, alongside Rural Fire Service and SES volunteers, clearing debris and helping local residents across the town.

The Kurri Kurri Ambulance Practice Hall was one of the worst damaged, with the entire roof torn off the heritage building. 

“It was just like a tornado and whoosh, off went the roof,” Elana Lawrence, who was in the hall at the time of the storm, told Fairfax Media. 

The centre, which provides after school and holiday care for children, was empty except for Ms Lawrence.

Kurri resident Cheryle Shoesmith lives on Main Road leading into the town. Winds downed multiple trees along the stretch of homes, damaging multiple houses and leaving a mass of vegetation to be cleared. 

“It was cyclonic, the rain was going sideways,” Ms Shoesmith said. 

The longtime resident said it wasn’t the first time the area had been struck hard by storms, but Monday’s one was “just horrific”. 

Amidst the gloomy aftermath, Ms Shoesmith praised the swift reaction of emergency services and fellow community members. 

“There’s a fellow up the road with a chainsaw and everyone has come straight away to help with the clean up,” she said. 

This story ‘I wasn’t meant to die today’: close calls as savage storm smashes Kurri Kurri first appeared on The Maitland Mercury.