Housing NZ will today begin fixing dozens of Kaitaia houses damaged by a tornado that ripped through the small Far North community, smashing windows, felling trees and forcing people from their homes.
About 42 homes were affected by the wild weather – predominantly state houses built in the 1940s and 50s with tiled roofs – and Kaitaia Hospital suffered damage to its administration block roof, had a transformer taken out by a tree and lost its boiler room roof.
Fire staff were called to the hospital yesterday to secure temporary tarpaulins over the administration block, after strong winds pulled them loose and let water in.
Operations manager Neta Smith said no real damage was done or problems caused for staff or patients.
The local kindergarten also lost a fence in the tornado.
Fire staff and support agencies will today help clean up the damage.
Kaitaia volunteer fire chief Colin Kitchen said it would be “all hands on deck”. He was thrilled with the community response thus far.
“I’ve been very impressed with the way everyone has worked together in true community spirit.
“It’s a small community town and they all jumped in there and helped out,” he said yesterday.
Mr Kitchen said several evacuated residents had not yet returned to their homes – opting to stay with relatives.
No one was injured in Saturday’s storm, but a heavily pregnant woman was taken to hospital as a precaution.
Mr Kitchen said residents saw the tornado approaching the south end of the town from the west coast at about 12.40pm.
With a front about 50m wide, it entered Pukepoto Rd before going into Worth St, through the grounds of Kaitaia Hospital and on to Eden Terrace.
Homes in Pukepoto Rd and Worth St at the south end of the town appeared worst affected, he said.
Housing NZ spokesman Nick Maling did not know how long it would take to fix the houses, as the full extent of damage was not known.
Last night, the number of lightning strikes recorded in the Tasman Sea near Northland jumped from 100 an hour to 471 an hour according to WeatherWatch.co.nz.