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Tornado tears into country homes

When the Fire Service called John Weatherley and told him there was a problem at home he thought his house must have burned down.

But instead of a blackened shell he found the Maxted Rd, Ramarama, house where he lives with his partner Shiree Mackay had been hit by a tornado and was missing its roof.

“The fireman was dead right with his description. The second-storey roof was completely gone.

“It was four walls and then it was sky,” Mr Weatherley said.

He was grateful the tornado hit at 11am when he and Ms Mackay were at work, and not when they were sleeping upstairs.

“It could have happened at night when we were sleeping. It might have been a lot different.”

Their belongings were strewn around but most things had been accounted for.

“It’s only early days but not a hell of a lot of things were sucked out – it wasn’t like a huge vacuum. Our personal possessions got off very lightly.”

Parts of the roof could be seen in a valley about 300m away.

Branches and glass were spread everywhere and outdoor furniture had been thrown through windows.

Mr Weatherley told the Herald he was glad his puppy was found unharmed amid the chaos.

“I thought he could have blown away like Toto [the dog in the Wizard of Oz] back to Kansas.”

It would be months before the house was liveable again.

Other Ramarama homes lost windows and trees and fences were blown down.

One man found part of a garage on his property and big shards of glass from a neighbouring glasshouse embedded in the ground.

MetService forecaster Gerard Barrow said thunderstorms like yesterday’s could be repeated today and tomorrow as a large low moved east over the country.

There would be “bangs” of heavy rain, showers and the chance of thunderstorms in northern, central and western areas, he said.

“The situation is quite unstable.”

WeatherWatch head weather analyst Philip Duncan said there could be more small tornadoes as cold air and warmer air from the tropics mixed.

Meanwhile, a suspected lightning strike caused an Air New Zealand flight from New Plymouth to Christchurch with 44 passengers on board to be diverted to Nelson.

Air New Zealand said the suspected impact didn’t cause any airworthiness issues and the safety of the passengers wasn’t compromised.

Mr Duncan said 3000 lightning strikes were recorded across the country by mid-afternoon yesterday.



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