17 May 2021

Tornado damages buildings in Waitara as cold weather hits

5:30 pm on 17 May 2021

A tornado has caused minor damage to buildings in Waitara, Fire and Emergency (FENZ) in Taranaki says.

Wet weather in Wellington.

A rainy day in Wellington (file photo) Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

FENZ said anyone needing assistance should call 111.

The whirlwind generated a waterspout, lifted roofs and sent trampolines flying.

Cherry from Dobson's Auto Centre in West Quay said she first heard a slow rumbling sound, which became louder and louder.

She said buildings opposite them also lost their roofs.

"We could hear it for about 20 seconds beforehand coming through, the slow rumble got louder and then all of a sudden it was really, really loud and by the time we got down the stairs to have a look to see what was going on, the next door neighbour's roof was flying off," she said.

"So a couple of the buildings opposite us, industrial buildings have lost their roofs so, it's all a bit messy out there with engines and everything all over the place."

There were no reported causalities or injuries.

Cherry said when the tornado barrelled through Waitara, it eventually reached the nearby river and generated a waterspout.

She said the sound was like a train going through the street beside them.

"By the time we got to the garage doors, because we're a workshop, by the time we got down there to have a look, the roof was flapping and it [the tornado] literally was just passing over because there's an estuary or river behind it and there was a water spout going down the river just afterwards, so it was carrying on its merry way."

Waitara Volunteer Brigade chief fire officer Dennis Crow said the tornado had caused damage to nearby buildings and the debris ended up on the other side of the river.

He said the community were disappointed because they had not expected the tornado and the damage caused, but there was nothing they could do about it.

"There were no injuries or anything, basically people were working away and then there must have been some sort of tornado that came down the river I think it was and it hit those buildings and took the roof off," Crow said.

"We secured the roofing down and provided covers [to an affected store owner], things like that, for all of his machinery so they didn't get wet, because I'm led to believe there is meant to be some wind and rain coming tonight."

He said the affected businesses had been in contact with their insurance companies, who would continue on with the repair work and the fire brigade would not be needing to do any further work.

Downpours, gale force winds and heavy snow are heading into parts of central and southern New Zealand, with severe weather warnings in place.

Heavy rain is forecast in western parts of the North Island from Wellington to Taranaki, including Horowhenua, Kāpiti and the Tararua Ranges, and in the South Island near Fiordland.

Thunderstorms are possible from western Auckland to Taranaki, also for the eastern Bay of Plenty ranges, northern Gisborne, Horowhenua Kāpiti Coast and Wellington.

A cold front is expected to hit the South Island from the south west this afternoon and evening, bringing significant snow to low levels to the south in the evening.

MetService said this was a significant outbreak of cold weather and advised people to keep up to date with the latest forecasts.

Fiordland has been issued a heavy snow warning, while Southland, Clutha and Central Otago south of Roxburgh are under a heavy snow watch.

Strong winds were forecast for Tuesday in the North Island in Tararua District and Hawke's Bay south of Hastings, Wairarapa and Wellington, and in the South Island for coastal Clutha, Dunedin and coastal Southland including Stewart Island.