Tornado hits South Island while lightning strikes in the North

Publish Date
Wednesday, 6 September 2017, 10:30AM
The aftermath from mini tornado that passed South Island. Photo / Lisa Tumahai

The aftermath from mini tornado that passed South Island. Photo / Lisa Tumahai

A small tornado has ripped through a West Coast settlement this morning, smashing rail crossing bells and changing the direction of road signs.

The damaging wind funnel struck Awatuna, north of Hokitika, just before 6am.

At least one buildling has lost its roof and there is damage to property.

The Westland District Council said a small tornado also roared through Arahura, cutting power and water to the township.


Kohanga reo building at Arahura Pa devastated by mini tornado. Photo / Lisa Tumahai

Arahura residents were told to conserve water as the power cut affected the settlement's water pump. Electricity was not expected to be back for another three hours.

A police spokeswoman said the tornado destroyed railway crossing bells on Old Christchurch Rd at Awatuna.

"A mini tornado came through the area and took out crossing bells and road signs," she said.

A Fire and Emergency spokesman said firefighters had not been called.


External view of Kohanga reo building at Arahura Pa devastated by mini tornado. Photo / Lisa Tumahai

Water was now leaking through the roof of one of the hit homes.

A Department of Conservation building in Waitomo also caught fire.

Fire and Emergency northern shift manager Jaron Phillips said the Pureora Forest Park DOC office on Barryville Rd was engulfed.

A fierce thunderstorm was over the Waitomo District at the time and a lightning strike may have sparked the blaze.

"There was a front moving across and there was a large storm at the time," said Phillips.

Fire crews from Mangakino, Benneydale, Tokoroa and Otorohanga were battling the blaze in the single-storey building.

Two people were also rescued from their parked vehicle after they became trapped by rising floodwaters at Ruakuri Reserve.


Two people were rescued from their parked vehicle after they became trapped by rising floodwaters at Ruakuri Reserve. Photo: Te Kuiti Volunteer Fire Brigade/Facebook

A police spokesman said firefighters walked the pair to safety through the fast-rising floodwaters that had swamped the scenic reserve's car park.

The settlement of Mangakino has also been lashed by stormy weather.

Flooding and a lightning strike have hit the main telephone network before dawn.

Phillips said fire crews encountered flooding leaving to fight the Pureora blaze.

A strike had triggered the fire alarm at the Mangakino Telephone Exchange and the town was now without landlines, he said.

MetService forecaster Tom Adams said the band of thunderstorms would cross Auckland over the coming hour.

The worst of the weather was hitting Auckland now, he said.

The storms would give way to showery weather and fresh thunderstorms would hit later in the day, he said.

This article was first published on NZ Herald and is republished here with permission.