Brian McDermott inspects the damage. Picture: Peter StoopZAARA Street, Newcastle, resident Brian McDermott was at home on the Tuesday morning of the Newcastle storm when a neighbour got on the phone to tell him about his roof.
Shanghai night field

“You know part of your roof has gone, don’t you?” Mr McDermott recounted on Wednesday.

“Funnily enough, I was thinking it would be all right because we got a new roof three years ago when we moved in.

“Well, the metal sheets were fine, but it was the timber frame holding it all together that gave way.”

Mr McDermott, the publican at Wickham’s Albion Hotel, lives upstairs with his family in a large, free-standing brick terrace in Zaara Street above the Kiwi Waffle’n’Cones ice-cream shop, an East End institution.

The loss of the roof and the subsequent flooding of the upstairs living areas led to huge amounts of water soaking the ice-cream shop ceiling, which then collapsed into the store.

Shop owner Anthony Rogers, who was interstate when the storm hit, said it could take as long as two months to get the shop up and running again.

“I’ve had it 11 years and Richard Laycock had it for 14 before that, so this year is its 25th anniversary,” Mr Rogers said.

Mr McDermott said the night of the storm was a sleepless affair. The roof came off in sections on the Tuesday morning.

One section ended up in the swimming pool of a neighbouring unit block. Another in an adjacent tennis court.

A third section fell on two family cars in the driveway, writing them off, although a third car in the driveway escaped with little damage.

Mr McDermott said that with the roof gone, the horsehair plaster ceiling began to give way, opening up numerous holes to the sky above.

At one stage, water was above the skirting boards in the upstairs rooms, with water pouring down the stairs to a side entrance behind the shop.

Mr McDermott, a lifelong Novocastrian who was a young, 24-year-old Citizens Group councillor on the Newcastle council sacked by the state government in 1984, said there were others who copped it far worse than his family in the storm.

Having bought the terrace three years ago, he was determined to restore it if the structural damage was not too severe.

“The front dates from about 1922 and the rear section is new, and it’s a privilege to sit on the front verandah of a morning and look across at the surfers going into the water at the beach.”

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