Tornadoes smashed through Mt Maunganui last night, damaging homes, ripping roofs from buildings and sending trampolines and outdoor furniture flying.
Mt Maunganui Intermediate suffered substantial damage, principal Lisa Morresey posted on the school’s website late last night. One neighbour said the school’s new astroturf had been ripped up. Ms Morresey said the school would be closed today “as there are health and safety hazards”.
A trampoline wrapped around a lamp-post after the tornado hit in Tauranga last night. Photo / Alan Gibson
The tornadoes roared through about 8.45pm. Emergency services were called to the Waitui Park area after multiple callers reported damage to their properties around Lodge Ave and Links Ave.
Lodge Ave resident Lane Wright watched on as fire crews cut apart the mangled remains of his roof, which had been blown on to a driveway metres from his home.
Mr Wright said that through the torrential rain he heard “a big gust of wind, then a couple of cracks and I just grabbed the kids”.
He and his twins Jordan and Brooke, 3, and daughter Lara, 4, escaped unharmed as their roof was ripped off.
“I just knew it was gone but I was more worried about the kids than anything.”
When he ran out on to the street, he found a mess: a trampoline was wrapped around a lightpole and the road was covered in debris. Mr Wright, whose house is insured, planned to stay with relatives.
Other residents described the motion of an earthquake and the sound “of a freight train”.
Erika Mitchell said the tornado “bellowed through” her property, knocking down a 4m-5m section of a wooden trellis fence and ripping out her letterbox.
“I dropped to my knees – it felt like the roof was going to lift off,” she said.
Pauline Cox saw two tornadoes and told the Herald it was “pretty scary”.
“I heard the wind. I remember that wind from a tornado we had here years ago — it ripped our pool out and you could see the outdoor chairs jumping up and down.
“That’s the wind I heard. I went outside to have a look and I could hear all the tin being ripped off … It was so loud.”
Alicia Gestro was watching TV with her 13-year-old son when the ranchslider started to shake violently. She got up and pulled the curtains just as the tornado swept through her yard.
“It was like a big vibration. It was really loud and quite horrendous.
“We just sat there and looked at each other and said, ‘Was that a tornado?’ I looked out and the outside table had been flipped and smashed, the BBQ that was on the deck was almost in the house and the back fence was completely gone. The weather has gone crazy, it’s nuts. My husband was driving home from the gym and he saw aerials all over the roads.”
Resident Greg Anderson was watching TV when he heard a heavy bang, before the glass in his ranchslider broke.
“I opened up the blinds and saw the rest of the devastation – our car port has been pushed into our house and there’s a part of someone else’s roof through ours.”
He estimated it took between 10 and 20 seconds to blow through.
Across the street, Alan Ruddell was shaken by “a hell of a noise – it was like a train coming through, it really was a thundery noise.”
His home escaped damage but a tall tree, just metres away, could be seen lurching precariously with broken limbs.
Another neighbour, Robert Gillespie, said the sound of the twister itself was drowned out by the thunderous downpour.
“Then the ground shook, and the house just went round and round in a circular motion, just like an earthquake.”
Links Ave resident Adelle Fleming said a 3m by 5m garden shed had landed on her fence.
“It’s been absolutely trashed. It’s a mess. It’s caved in my fence and I can’t get out of my driveway. My neighbours across the road – one of the streetlights has landed on their roof. My next-door neighbour has lost some of her roof and their windows were smashed in.”
There were bits of corrugated iron strewn across her yard and a metal deck umbrella-holder had landed on her deck.
“I was reading a story to my daughter in bed. I just heard a massive gust and I could feel it on the back of my neck because the window’s right there.
“I thought the window was going to break and the roof felt like it was going to lift off. Then the power went off. It was within a matter of 20 seconds. It’s scary for the kids.”
Police and the Fire Service were inundated with calls and officers knocked on doors and spoke to people in the streets making sure everyone was OK.
WeatherWatch.co.nz said the rain radar at the time the tornadoes hit showed “an intense area of rain brushing the coastline”.
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