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Big Low: Thunder, heavy rain, tornado risk & gales

A storm in the Southern Ocean is moving into the Tasman Sea and will cross new Zealand bringing the risk of thunder, small tornados, gales and heavy rain.  Snow, hail and sunshine are also in the forecast. head weather analyst Philip Duncan says the chance of this system producing a tornado is fairly high but stresses it may only create one or two across the entire country.  “We have all the right ingredients for nasty squalls and heavy showers and with so much activity a couple of small tornados are likely around our more coastal regions in the west and north”.

Mr Duncan says the system rolling in is very similar to one that affected New Zealand in early July last year and produced a damaging tornado in Kapiti along with numerous other thunderstorms and strong winds across the country.

“While we feel quite confident this system has the potential to create a tornado it’s very important to focus on the fact that much of the west coast of both main island is rural farmland, national parks and bush.  We may have one and never know about it”.

Mr Duncan says if people see a tornado the safest place is indoors in a small room.  “Stay away from windows and don’t listen to the myth of opening windows on the sheltered side of the house. Just get into a small room or closet until it passes”. says it’s rare for a tornado to hit a home but in the past two years numerous properties around the country have been damaged by them and one person was killed in Albany last May after a tornado ripped through a shopping centre.

So what is the general set up?

Well for Monday mostly warm and strong winds from the west to north west will continue to affect parts of the country, especially central New Zealand and the North Island.

During Tuesday and Wednesday the wind flow will shift more southerly and then very cold air will move in. says the storm is being fuelled by a number of low pressure centres.

Snow is expected to settle to about 300 metres in the South Island on Tuesday night and into Wednesday.  While snow currently isn’t predicted for any of the main centres says Dunedin’s hill suburbs may get sleet overnight Tuesday and Queenstown will be borderline for snow.

Hail and very cold south to south west winds will mostly affect the southern and western coastlines of New Zealand on Tuesday and Wednesday, easing Thursday.

For Canterbury the wind may be too westerly to see much precipitation from this system.  While highs on Tuesday will likely be under 12 degrees for the region the chance for rain is currently only 40%.  In the similar storm in July last year Canterbury enjoyed mostly sunny weather while lightning from the West Coast could be seen at night lighting up clouds on the Southern Alps.

The overall system is so large it is predicted to continue to affect New Zealand until Thursday (keeping in mind it started on Saturday for the West Coast).

A large high should start to push in from the Tasman Sea this Friday and next weekend.


What are conditions like where you are?  Post your comment below


rob on 14/05/2012 12:06am


here in Kaitaia we have had 9mm of rain this morning. strong to moderate north to north west winds. Have not had any more rain in the last couple of hours with blue skyes around now and quite warm.

kylie on 13/05/2012 11:27pm

dry with patches of blue sky in invercargill

Guest on 13/05/2012 9:32pm

Hi there,
How bad do you think it will hit Auckland ?

sw on 14/05/2012 12:20am

Westerlies could be strong in exposed places tomorrow then Wed-fri theyll be SW usual stock standard strong wind lasting that period.

sw on 13/05/2012 8:34pm

Just overcast and dry,light N wind,nothing worse than a large anticyclone centred over us,but come SW change midweek…….

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