A lucky escape in Korweinguboora
Published on 09 June 2022
For Korweinguboora local Ross Redwin, the June 2021 storm was also the night he lived through every parent’s worst nightmare.
Due to the strong winds, a large tree fell through the roof of the bedroom where his two children slept. No one was injured, thanks to some sturdy bunk bed railing, but the impact of the night was deep and lasting.
Ross and his family haven’t been able to live in their Korweinguboora home since that day. Their house was completely destroyed.
“On the night, I was asleep, and I got woken up by a terrible crashing noise. The whole building shook, quite violently. I had heard some weather warnings and I knew when I went to bed it was already blowing a gale."
At about midnight the first tree came down on their house. Ross went outside to investigate the noise and check for any damage.
“I took the one torch I had outside and I was off to the side of the house when one of my children actually rang me, quite distraught, crying, and told me that they were trapped in bed and that the roof had fallen in on them.
“I went in there, well actually I ran in, and one of my kids was climbing out of the top bunk – they slept in a double bunk bed that was up quite high. It had rails around it, and it was only the rails that stopped them from being badly injured because the ceiling joists and rafters had been completely broken, and were sitting on that rail instead of sitting on my child,” Ross said.
Ross got his youngest child, who was sleeping in the top bunk, out and into the lounge room and again went outside to have a look.
“Trees were falling as I was outside, I could hear them, but the torch wasn’t strong enough to see where they were.
“I was pretty scared by this stage because I could hear a lot of trees coming down – every minute or so. When trees come down they make a sort of funny noise. It’s almost as if the noise is in slow motion – it’s hard to describe.”
Ross tried to call the SES, but the operator informed him that the crew was swamped with calls and help would be a long time due to trees down over every road.
“My son was still asleep at this stage. He’s an amazing sleeper – I really wish I could sleep like him sometimes. It really is quite staggering how we manages to sleep through anything.
“I knew which direction the trees were coming from now though because I’d been outside. By that stage we’d had five trees come down on the house, so I decided the smart thing to do, despite the weather, was to get out,” Ross said.
Ross woke his son up, packed a bag for each of them, and the three of them discussed where they were going to go. They decided they’d head to the house of some friends from school, about 2km up the road.
“As soon as I tried to drive the car out, so much rain had already fallen on the ground that the wheels started spinning. I backed up and started to move forward but I hit a softer spot and the car just sank down to its axels.
“I could hear even more trees falling and I decided we'd just walk down to our friends’ place,” Ross said.
“In hindsight, we should’ve stayed at home. As we walked I could trees coming down and because we only had small torches, I had no idea where the trees were. I had no idea if they were going to land on us. It was absolutely terrifying.”
Ross and his kids had to climb over five or six trees to get through to an open section of road that held less danger of falling trees.
“I calmed down then, but it was still pretty bad because it was pissing down rain and the wind was so strong that at one stage it actually blew my youngest kid off their feet. Literally picked them up and dumped them on the road,” Ross said.
It was about 3am when they reached their friends’ house.
“They were absolutely wonderful. I didn’t know the kids’ parents at that stage, but they really were terrific to us. We woke them up at 3am in the morning and they came in and gave us towels to dry off and let us stand in front of the heater, made us coffee, made up spare beds for us,” Ross said.
“It didn’t end that night as you know, it kept going for a day and a half. We sat there on Thursday and watched trees falling, just all day.
“By that stage people from all down Back Settlement Road were coming down and checking on people.”
With no power and no phone service, and every road in and out of town blocked for days, the only way to speak to neighbours and share information was face-to-face.
“On Friday, everybody was running out of food. Not just the people we were staying at, but everyone up and down the street was coming in and saying – I’ve got this, if you want some I’ve got heaps, but I haven’t got any of that, have you got any of that?” Ross said.
Since that night, Ross and his family have been living in a rental property in a large town nearby. He doesn’t think they’ll be back for a long time, if ever. But it hasn’t scared him off living in the bush.
“I’m put off enough by what happened that I don’t want to go back there, but I like small villages. I grew up in a really small country town and I like living in really small country towns.”