Cyclone hits Empire Bay - Friday 10 August 1984

There are few of the long-time Empire Bay residents who could tell you the story of the cyclone that hit the Bay in August, 36 years ago.

Around lunchtime, Friday 10 August 1984, disaster struck Empire Bay. No one saw it coming and the residents had no idea of the destruction it would bring.

A small whirlwind quickly grew in intensity. A resident noticed leaves and dust swelling around in the air, on what was otherwise a calm sunny day. As suddenly as it started, it stopped, but the damage was done. “30 seconds of terror”, the Advocate’s headline stated. It's full fury uprooting trees and destroying property.

Some residents described it as a roar like the XPT train, others thought it was an earthquake.

The whirlwind began, in the vicinity of the Progress Hall and continued its destructive path along the waterfront of Sorrento Road and Shelly Beach Road.

Some houses suffered extreme damage, while other houses were sheltered from the wrath of the wind. It was extremely fortunate that no one was killed, as objects were flying through the air, finishing their journey dumped on other houses and trees. Caravans flipped onto their roofs, boats lifted from their trailers and garage doors blown out. Debris was everywhere.

Strangely, boats moored along the waterfront missed the tornados fury.

The pictures from this day show the extent of the destruction, roofing material removed, awnings destroyed, a caravan upturned, while aluminium boats were tossed around like paper in the wind. One was impaled upon a fence.

The wind seized roofs, windows disintegrated, walls buckled, and trees split in two.

The Gosford Times reported, “The air was filled with corrugated iron, flying tiles and cart-wheeling fencing. Luckily, a hailstorm had driven people inside otherwise they would have been cut down by the shards of glass and iron as if struck by shrapnel. Corrugated iron hung from powerlines, tested me to the force of the wind.”

The final count was 15 houses lost their roofs, 3 houses with walls and roofing destroyed and 8 houses with partial damage. Two people were taken to hospital but could leave soon after.

Sources: Warwick Homer’s notes, Gosford Times, August 1984 and Advocate, August 1984.

by Robert Thompson