More than 50 onsite vans at the Lake Purrumbete Caravan Park were ripped apart and boats tossed across the road during a ferocious windstorm that cut through a three kilometre strip on Wednesday night.
The freak storm also ripped the verandah from the Lake Edge Cafe, tore a large section of roof from Tony and Julie Molan’s home, felled trees across roads and resulted in debris strewn across surrounding paddocks.
Camperdown SES controller Colin Brian said the unit was first called out to a York Street address at 10.30pm.
“A massive electrical storm came through and dumped an enormous amount of rain in a short-time, which caused the houses’ roof to leak and the ceiling to collapse,” he said.
“We’d finished securing that house when we got a call to go out to the Lake Purrumbete Caravan Park.
“When we got out there, we couldn’t believe what we were seeing – it was absolutely incredible.”
Mr Brian said Camperdown and Cobden SES units worked to clear about six fallen trees from the road.
“We virtually had to cut our way through to get to the caravan park,” he said.
“There were twisted annexes, overturned boats all over the road and rubble everywhere.
“Our first priority was to make sure everyone was okay and try to ensure everyone was safe.
“Thankfully there were only a handful of residents in the park that night – one had a gash on his leg and another hit his head, so the ambo’s were called to attend to them.”
A strong smell of gas indicated widespread leaks, which prevented any use of chainsaws and saw the Tesbury and Weerite CFA units called in to turn every gas bottle off in the entire park.
“The level of damage out there was just horrific – the debris goes for a couple of kilometres; there’s even a boat about 200 metres out in a paddock across the road,” Mr Brian said.
“I’ve never seen anything like that in my 26 years with the SES.”
Park resident Graeme Toomey was forced to take refuge in his car after the force of the storm tore the roof off his caravan and its annex.
“There was almighty banging and crashing and it felt like my whole caravan was being lifted up,” he said.
“The rain was pouring in and all I could think was that I had to get out of the van.
“I pushed through the wind and got into my car and turned the hazard lights on – it was totally black otherwise.”
Mr Toomey said the noise was “incredible”.
“I haven’t got the words to describe it,” he said.
“There were trees crashing down, pieces of glass and tin being thrown around, and there were even boats flying through the air.
“The main thing is that everyone is still okay.”
Park resident Les Broughton said he took refuge on his caravan floor as fierce winds tore the attached annex from the van.
“I was in bed when I saw what I thought was fluro lights flicking and then the power went out,” he said.
“The wind was howling and there was banging and crashing all around – it was just like the twister you see on TV in America.
“The wind ripped the roof off my annex in less than 10 seconds, the rest of it was gone.”
Powercor contractors and Corangamite Shire representatives attended the scene to offer assistance Thursday morning.