Your web browser (Internet Explorer) is out of date. Some things will not look right and things might not work properly. Please download an up-to-date and free browser from here.

Rough weather moves in; report of a West Coast tornado

UPDATED 8:58pm — A report has come in of a tornado near Hokitika on the West Coast. reader and weather enthusiast Dale Small says he’s heard reports of a tornado this evening.  “Been a pretty wild couple of hours here with some very big thundersqualls coming through. Especially hard down in the Hokitika direction with a roof being removed from a house somewhere in town, and now reports of a tornado which has thrown trees onto powerlines & “relocated livestock”.. no further information on the latter but it certainly would not surprise me”.

Across the weekend has warned of the risk of small scale tornados as the first Autumn storm of the year brushes past New Zealand.  The centre of the low is well south of the country but it’s size means the South Island and lower North Island are in the path of gales, heavy rain and thunderstorms and on the West Coast the risk of isolated damaging squalls with weak tornados.

As of 8:55pm hadn’t confirmed if the reported damage was related to a tornado or squall.

Earlier update 2:30pm

Some have sun, others wind and rain as a large storm well to the south of the country starts to affect the weather across New Zealand – especially the lower two thirds of the nation.  The rough weather is expected to mainly affect national parks and rural areas but some main centres are also in the firing line (see below for more details).

The cold change has already reached Southland with Deep South Weather reporting that Invercargill reached 16 degrees at 11am but is now at just nine, dropping over two degrees in the last hour alone – normally the warmest time of the day. says the fronts are heading north and Queenstown has gone from 20 degrees at noon to just 12 degrees at 2:30pm.

A warm northerly is still blowing through Dunedin and right across Canterbury.  Christchurch residents are reporting mostly sunny weather with a north west arch appearing in the sky.  However colder, wetter, weather will move into Dunedin this afternoon and Canterbury tonight.

Rain is also moving up the West Coast with saying the more wintry, squally, conditions are not likely to arrive until this evening in Southland and the West Coast.

Head weather analyst Philip Duncan says the squally showers could bring hail, thunder and even localised damaging winds to the West Coast while squally showers with hail and possibly thunder are likely for Southland overnight.

For the North Island the windier, colder, weather isn’t expected to arrive until Monday.

This is a shot of the storm south of NZ with Antarctica at the bottom and the South Island at the top. Note the isobars bunching up over the South Island (gales) and of course the rain movign in from the WSW. Image from Sunday March 29, 2012 – by our friends at

Earlier story from 9:40am Sunday says the large low is showing up clearly on satellite imagery to the south and south west of the South Island with the main fronts now arriving in the deep south west.

The public owned forecaster, MetService, has issued several warnings – they include heavy rain warnings for much of the West Coast, and spillover into east coast waterways along with severe gales of up to 130km/h in places like Wairarapa, Wellington, Marlborough and Canterbury.

On top of the warning, forecasters say other severe weather is also possible with thunderstorms likely on the West Coast of the South Island today – and into the west coast of the North Island overnight tonight and tomorrow – and they bring another set of weather.

Head weather analyst Philip Duncan says latest satellite imagery at clearly shows the squally showers building to the south west of New Zealand.  “This is a significant storm and while the centre of the low won’t actually come near New Zealand it is large enough to push gales, heavy rain and potentially damaging squalls up the South Island and lower North Island today”.

“Some of the squalls for western areas of the South Island could produce damaging winds, hail storms, thunder and even the chance of a tornado being whipped up”.

Mr Duncan says the West Coast is no stranger to these conditions and neither is the east coast – and that usually limits damage with trees in the east growing on a angle to withstand the winds and waterways in the west used to sudden downpours.  However Mr Duncan says the predicted wind speeds are high enough to uproot trees, break branches, lift roofing iron and making driving extreme difficult.  The rain is also heavy enough to spillover into the east coast waterways – causing rivers in places like Canterbury to rise without warning even if conditions are dry locally. says the pressure gradient is significant (50 to 60 hPa) between the centre of a high to the north of the country and the deep low well to the south – that means strong winds for the country, mainly the South Island and lower North Island’. says this is typical Autumn weather but will certainly contrast significantly with the recent settled conditions.  “We’ll have heavy snow for parts of the Southern Alps, squalls with thunder on the West Coast, heavy rain for the West Coast and gales for eastern areas of both islands, especially the lower North Island – that’s the extreme weather for the next 24 hours”.

Map: Sunday afternoon wind map (red and orange indicates strong to gale force, yellow moderate, blue is light winds /

Mr Duncan says the bulk of the severe weather will be in rural areas and national parks – with the worst of the weather mostly taking aim at the south west corner of the South Island and the West Coast.  “Certainly West Coast centres will see some rough weather today and those winds will howl through central New Zealand as the day wears on”. says the rough weather will build over the South Island throughout Sunday and develop over the lower North Island into the afternoon.  The upper North Island should start off fairly settled with cloudy periods and only a low risk of a remaining shower or two.  By the end of the day and overnight the main front will push into the rest of the North Island with winds continuing to build.

Windy and showery weather is predicted for many areas on Monday then should ease on Tuesday.

Another high is predicted to return to the country mid way through next week and last until Saturday.

Map: Where the bulk of the rain will be Sunday afternoon, orange, yellow and blue indicates the heavier rain, purple/pink indicates showers / says models indicate a large low with sub-tropical connections will move into the Tasman Sea for next weekend – it’s too early to know what impacts it will have on the nation, we’ll have a better idea in the next day or two.


What are conditions like where you are at the moment?  Post your observations below!



Simon Hills on 29/04/2012 1:27am

Here in Levin brightening up again not after that heavy shower, only lasted about 10 or 15 minutes. Temp now 16 degrees C

phil smith on 29/04/2012 1:07am

Hi Phil, Phil here in Levin , the heavens have just open and the temp has droped and it has become very windy , though hoping for some thunder later on even though my wife and daughter are driving to palmy tonight to watch the netball so hoping that there driving experience wont be to freaky. cheers

Jamie on 29/04/2012 12:39am

Gorgeous here in Rangiora. Sunny and warm, with a large northwest arch moving in

Guest on 28/04/2012 10:49pm

Warm and Calm in New Plymouth. Cloud on the horizon.

Guest on 28/04/2012 9:30pm

Just a slight breeze here in Kaipara, no rain..slightly colder than normal.

View more comments

Related Articles