Firefighters were kept busy securing homes and businesses after a mini-tornado hit central New Plymouth early this morning.
The fire brigade received the first call about 1.45am to a roof lifting on Fulford St, and this was followed during the next couple of hours by reports of garage doors being ripped off and windows being blown in on Devon St West.
It appears the twister touched down down in both streets causing serious damage but completely leapt the one-way system running between the sites.
Heavy rain, strong winds, thunder, lightning and hail battered the region over night and a clean-up operation was underway on Wednesday.
MetService meteorologist Stephen Glassey confirmed it appeared a small twister had struck in New Plymouth and there had been more than 60 lightning strikes over Taranaki.
“The thing with thunder storms in they can be very localised and can bring intense rain over a small area,” Glassey said.
“There was a line of thunder storms that did go through between one and two this morning and it looks like there could have been a small tornado in there.”
Fulford St resident Kayla Phillips said the twister struck the area about 1.30am.
“Smashed our tramp on the road, threw bins around, slammed the neighbours’ boat against the fence and lifted our roof a little and we had to get the fire brigade to come to the rescue,” Phillips said.
“I just work up to, it kind of sounded like a small earthquake.”
Phillips said the front door blew open and the curtains were flapping around in the strong wind.
“The noise sounded like really intense wind and everything was shaking.
“Outside the tramp was missing and was in the middle of the road in pieces.”
When her home’s roof started to lift Phillips said her 9-year-old son, Charlie, started to get scared but was excited when firefighters arrived.
She said her neighbour’s trampoline had also been blown away and another had their windows smashed by the powerful wind.
Jaymie Johnston said she was woken up when her neighbour’s boat slammed into the fence close to her car.
“I just work up and there was a big bang, the boat had been spun around and it was being held up by the fence,” Johnston said.
Her banging and crashing didn’t wake her four-year-old son.
“We had people up on the roof banging the iron back on and he slept right through it.”
Johnston’s trampoline was missing only to be discovered about 120 metres away up a steep bank at Shane Aberdein’s hillside home.
Aberdein believed it was a small tornado that had touched down.
“It had to have been something like that to transport a trampoline that far.
“First of all there was a lot of rain and then it sounded like a bit of thunder, then everything stopped and it went really silent, we heard a smash against the house and then a lot of really, really heavy rain and then all stopped and went silent.”
Aberdein said he was shocked to see the trampoline crumpled up outside his house and tried to work out where it came.
He checked his house which had suffered no major damaged apart from twisted powerlines and some broken wooden trellis before going back to bed.
“It was pretty wild for a little while, about five seconds, and the it was all over.”
Gill Lambert, owner of Curves Gym on Devon St West, arrived at work to find the glass frontage of her business smashed in and debris scattered through the building.
“Actually I was really glad that there wasn’t any more damage,” Lambert said.
A sign from the gym, which was closed on Wednesday, was discovered one street over on Powderham St.
Lambert said the work done by the fire brigade and security company was great.
“It’s amazing when something like this happens how people kick into gear.
“I haven’t been through anything like this before so i didn’t know what needs to happen.”
Instructor Carlita Collins had arrived just before 6am to find a security guard outside the building who had been there since 3am.
“I was surprised, I didn’t know what was happening,” Collins said.
She had spent the morning cleaning up the mess.
“The whole room was just full of glass, dust and debris.”
A neighbour of the gym, who wouldn’t be named, had his double garage doors ripped off when the twister struck.
“I thought a freight train had hit the building.”
Senior station officer Maurice Kemsley said he wasn’t sure if it was a tornado or a ‘wind bomb’ but confirmed it had blown in garage doors, lifted roofs and even blown a boat on a trailer over a small bank.
“We hauled that back into place and secured the roofs,” Kemsley said.
The weather event was completely unexpected and confined to a small area, he said.
“It came right out of the blue.
“We got the police down there for security and they drove around the area and they couldn’t see any other damage other than those four properties.”
Kemsley said two fire engines and eight firefighters were kept busy for about three hours dealing the the damage.
Glassey said the showers were expected to ease on Wednesday with fine spells increasing while it would be mainly fine on Thursday with the chance of isolated showers.
Rain would develop on Friday evening, he said.
Courtesy of stuff.co.nz