A TORNADO has ripped through Armidale, in NSW's Northern Tablelands, on Thursday night and caused significant damage with reports of roofs ripped off, cars flipped and roads blocked by debris and fallen trees.
Emergency service crews have been working through the night to respond to more than 120 calls for help after the storm raged through about 10pm and left a trail of destruction.
Emergency services reported cars were flipped, roofs were ripped off and power lines and trees fell, leaving thousands of homes without power in the Northern Tablelands area.
Around half the population of 25,000 were without power overnight and the State Emergency Service (SES) is working to clear roads blocked by trees and debris, while council will be out and about this morning clearing green waste.
By 8am on Friday, thousands were still without power.
An Armidale SES spokesman said the locality of the north hill was particularly severely struck by the wild weather last night.
He warned the significant number of jobs and calls for help meant SES crews were working hard to prioritise and asked the community to please be patient.
"Our current focus ... is on the clearing of roads so people can get out and we can get in, in case of an emergency," he said early this morning.
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Extra support from firefighting and rescue agencies were expected to arrive in town this morning.
If anyone needs assistance, call 132 500, or in a life threatening emergency, call triple zero (000).
"There's a lot of damage up in the Armidale area overnight," NSW State Emergency Service Superintendent Scott Dodson said.
Emergency services have formed strike teams to help the community with the clean-up.
"We just want to make sure that everything is safe and help get the residents up there back to normal," Superintendent Dodson said.
Council has issued an emergency water conservation order after the power supply to the treatment plant was damaged by the severe storm.
"The power supply to the Armidale Water Treatment Plant has been damaged as a result of the severe weather event overnight and as a result, the water treatment plant is currently unable to produce water," a statement from council said.
"Council requests that the public apply conservation measures and reserve water for essential use only.
"Council is working closely with Essential Energy to restore power to the facility and will provide an update when water is able to be treated."
The University of New England's (UNE) Armidale campus was affected by the severe weather and a statement said there has been "major physical damage" to many buildings.
The campus, including the childcare centre and the sports facilities, is closed today and will be for the next several days.
The academic campus at UNE Armidale closed to all staff, students and the public until and including Wednesday, October 20, whilst severe building damage is being assessed.
Emergency services have reminded residents to be careful as the damage is cleared and assessed and do not go near floodwaters or fallen powerlines.
Contact Essential Energy on 13 20 80 if you see powerlines down.
Severe thunderstorms also hit Sydney with most damage occurring in the west and southwest.
- with Australian Associated Press