6 Jun 2019

Northland tornado damage: Some families unable to return home

9:11 am on 6 June 2019

Three households are still waiting to return home to properties damaged by a tornado at Coopers Beach in the Far North yesterday.

Tornado damage Far North

Photo: RNZ / Lois Williams

Colin Kitchen from the Northland Civil Defence group said about 15 homes were damaged.

People from three of the worst-damaged needed to stay with family or friends while repairs were made over the next couple of days, he said.

Mr Kitchen said roofs were blown off and garage doors and conservatories damaged.

A man had to flee from a tornado that came bearing down on him at Coopers Beach.

The brunt of the damage hit Torsby Road where Dave Currie was working inspecting a house. He told Morning Report it was a close call.

"A big heavy shower came over .. I went out with the owner to take some photos of the house I was inspecting and this huge roar came up from the beach area - we were about 300m away from the beach.

"We had about 30m or 40m to run back to the house ... by the time we got to the door it was just howling and debris flying in all directions a little bit further up the hill from us, luckily."

He said it didn't look like a traditional twister but was strong horizontal wind.

"It lasted a minute or a minute and a half at the most, but it was pretty ferocious."

The damage he witnessed included a neighbour's carport lifted off the foundation, there was debris flying through the air, bits of corrugated iron, roof framings, broken fences, and even a solar panel that ripped off a roof.

Coopers Beach/Campbell Bay area have had probably three similar storms in the last 15 to 20 years, he said.

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Photo: Photo / Lois Williams / RNZ

A Coopers Beach resident said he didn't realise he and his friend were watching a tornado as it ripped through the neighbourhood.

John Crump said there was some lightning beforehand and it went extremely dark.

"A friend and myself were standing in the dining room window watching it and we saw a four-legged table go whizzing past, about 100ft off the ground, a large trampoline was dumped on the street about 100m away."

However, Mr Kitchen from civil defence said the community was resilient.

"It's great when these events happen, how the community comes together and how organisations work together - like the volunteers, fire brigades, the police - just all come together and help each other out."

Householders were also making claims on insurance policies, he said.