A woman who was killed during an intense and sudden storm that ripped through Sydney's Northern Beaches has been identified as a former laboratory scientist for Covid vaccine maker AstraZeneca.
Susan Cobham, 68, was killed when she was hit by a falling tree in Narrabeen on Sunday afternoon as cyclonic conditions suddenly swept through the suburb in what is believed to have been a microburst storm, which involve a localised column of sinking air within a thunderstorm.
Her son, Ben, posted a heartfelt message to her Facebook page, alerting friends of her tragic passing.
"It is with a very heavy heart that I write to advise of my mother Susan's passing," he wrote.
"She was at her neighbourhood Christmas gathering near Narrabeen SLSC on Sunday afternoon when a large sudden storm hit.
"Lightning hit a massive Norfolk pine which subsequently fell, crushing her and hitting two other women. It was an unlucky freak accident and she has left us far too early and will be sorely missed."
Police, NSW Ambulance paramedics, Fire & Rescue NSW and the Westpac helicopter responded to the incident at a car park on Ocean Street, Narrabeen.
Two other women, a friend of Ms Cobham in her 70s and a 19-year-old, both suffered spinal injures and were rushed to Royal North Shore Hospital where they both remain in a serious but stable condition.
Tributes from friends online have poured in for the grandmother described as "a beautiful soul", whose social media accounts show she used to work for AstraZeneca Pharmaceuticals.
"Very sadly we have just heard that it was Sue Cobham who was killed at Narrabeen yesterday," the Avalon Yoga Co-op wrote on Facebook on Monday.
"Sue taught Japanese yoga on Sunday mornings at the Co-op and will be sadly missed."
Emergency services received multiple reports of storm damage across the area from 3.30pm on Sunday, with trees and powerlines down across suburbs from Mona Vale to Forestville.
Social media was quickly flooded with photos and videos of the wild scenes as people scrambled to safety and sought shelter in cars and nearby stores.
The State Emergency Service responded to nearly 600 calls for help and volunteers are still on the ground, with police and NSW Fire & Rescue crews who are helping people clear debris and secure homes that have lost roofs.
Adam Jones, from the SES, said most calls were for leaking roofs and fallen trees that were blocking roads as well as downed powerlines and people who were stuck in lifts.
"We can't promise that we'll have everyone ready for Christmas but that is the goal of every member out there," Mr Jones told ABC TV.
"Powerlines are incredibly dangerous. If they are down, stay away from them.
"Do not assume that they're turned off because they're on the ground. Try to stay 16-20 metres away from them," he said.
More than 35,000 homes lost power, with areas including North Turramurra, Frenchs Forest, Forestville and St Ives still affected.
AusGrid was continuing to work on early Monday afternoon to restore power to some suburbs, with the company saying employees had been working around the clock.
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