PHOTOS

Armidale residents relive terrifying tornado

A tornado rips through Armidale

A terrified mother scrambled over her mangled roof in a desparate bid to find her children after a tornado ripped through her small town.

Tammie Munsie was watching television when the roof was ripped off her house "in an instant" as a freak tornado struck the NSW Northern Tablelands town about 10pm on Thursday.

One of her children had his bedroom window shatter over him, the other opened his eyes in bed to find himself watching lightning strikes split the night sky.

The Munsie family were forced to abandon their home, all of their possessions and their flipped and crushed car, for the safety of a friend's place in the aftermath of the tornado.

"We heard the loud hail happening outside and then all of a sudden we heard a loud whooshing noise, next minute the roof is gone and part of it had collapsed into the lounge room," Ms Munsie said.

Despite the devastation, the Armidale mother said she felt lucky her children weren't hurt.

"We actually felt really scared," she said. "I had two other children down the other end of the house in bed so we actually had to climb over and under parts of the roof that had caved in to get up the other end of the house to see if my two younger kids were okay."

Ms Munsie said it was one of the most terrifying things she had experienced - and it was all over in a few minutes.

Her neighbours and the surrounding suburban streets of North Hill were some of the worst hit areas on what they described as the worst night possible - garbage bin collection night.

"We had eight bins in the front yard and all of the rubbish with it," Bob Flint said on Friday.

He barely knew how they got there though, in such a state of shock that he doesn't remember the calm that came after the storm.

We were just cowering in the hallway and I was just screaming.

Lisa Jackson

"Actually I have no idea because I was so scared," he said.

"Waiting for the hail storm was bad enough ... but then it went really still and that's when you could hear a noise like a jet, which was the tornado.

"I was just standing in the middle of the room observing the noises."

It started with a severe thunderstorm, then came the dumping of hail, and the swift yet devastating tornado, before ending with the stars coming out not long after confused and scared residents did too, trying to make sense of the madness.

"We were just cowering in the hallway and I was just screaming," resident Lisa Jackson said. "The noise, honestly I have never experienced anything like that, it was absolutely unbelievable.

"Afterwards, the night was absolutely beautiful, the stars were out and it was just still and beautiful."

Neighbours came together to support each other - either already friends or united by disaster - and helped to clear, with reports chainsaws and trucks could be heard firing up in the early hours.