Witness spotted Albion Park Rail 'twister'

In an era of smartphones it shouldn't be possible that a tornado would pass through Albion Park Rail unphotographed and virtually unobserved.

But it hit at 2.55am Sunday - too late for night owls, too early for morning people.

Andrew McTiernan is the only person he knows with an eyewitness account of a 200 metre-high twister winding through densely populated Illawarra suburbia.

He lifts his hands into the air and moves them in a big, sideways circle to describe the way it moved.

His eyes follow the motion of his hands and are wide, seeing it again.

"It was circling. It looked like there was a garden shed in it," he said.

"I heard this 'tuk-tuk-tuk' noise. It was the tiles coming off all the roofs as it came along. It was just ripping them off and chucking them 200 metres."

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Mr McTiernan was out the back of his house on Candlebark Street, fixing a clogged gutter so the rainwater could flow free, when he spotted the spiral in the sky.

He said it was very narrow at its bottom and far wider towards the top. It made a steady "whrrooom" noise - like a jet engine.

Using a large gumtree for comparison, he estimated it was 200 metres high.

Outside, alone in his boxer shorts, he watched for 20 seconds.

Then - according to his partner Katrina Freebody - "he was hysterical".

He burst inside and told Ms Freebody, "there's a tornado coming for us".

"I ran and put her in the built-in wardrobe," Mr McTiernan said.

"It was coming directly for my pergola.

"Everyone's saying it was just a wind gust but it wasn't, it was a tornado."

The pair took cover and emerged unscathed soon afterwards to compare notes with neighbours.

There were many damaged roofs and fences on Candlebark Street, Paperbark Street and Jarrah Way.

A heavy wooden and steel sign, showing the former highway-side Wilson Holden site was for lease, was found in the backyard of a house on Candlebark Street, about 300 metres from its origins.

Chris McInerney was among several residents on the street who heard a "noise like a jet engine".

"I just can't believe a tornado would happen in Australia," she said.

Her near neighbour, Adam Shee, was outside smoking a cigarette at the height of the activity.

He saw no twister but raced inside when his Colorbond fence folded inward and the trampoline overturned.

The Bureau of Meteorology has not confirmed the event at Albion Park Rail was a tornado.

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