Tornado memories

Remembering the Hobsonville twister

JULIAN RAETHEL
Last updated 05:00 10/12/2013
Geoff Polglase

CLEANED UP: Geoff Polglase a year after the Hobsonville tornado.

Auckland tornado
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A fire rescue crew at a building site near Walingford Way in Hobsonville.

Tornado hits Hobsonville

Geoff Polglase
FURIOUS WINDS: Geoff Polglase’s backyard after the Hobsonville tornado hit.

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Geoff Polglase gets a little nervous whenever he sees low clouds near his Kay Cres home.

It's been one year since the devastating December 6 tornado ripped through Hobsonville and Whenuapai, claiming three lives, wrecking 22 homes and causing $13 million of damage.

Many of the houses were owned by the defence force. Mr Polglase is an operations officer at Whenuapai Air Force Base.

He recalls that terrifying day and is more than wary of the havoc nature can wreak.

The roofs have long since been repaired and debris cleaned up.

But Mr Polglase remembers arriving home just before emergency services cordoned off his road to find his property had borne the brunt of the tornado.

"It was full on," he says. "Everything got thrown on to the back of the house, tiles from the roof had ripped off and windows were smashed. It was also recycling day so that caused all sorts of problems."

Mr Polglase's yard was trashed and a piece of roofing iron from a distant house was embedded so deep under his door jamb it took two men five minutes to get it out.

His stepson Tarquin, 15, was the only one home and suffered a deep cut to his foot from shattered glass.

The family had to temporarily move returning to clean up six days later, with Christmas the last thing on anyone's mind.

"We were given lots of parcels from people and it actually made Christmas for us because we had nothing left. We are so grateful for that," Mr Polglase says.

The insurance company was quick to act and everything was back to normal in less than a month.

But others were not so lucky.

The largest tragedy from the tornado were the deaths of Tom Stowers, 42, Keith Langford, 60, and Brendon Johnson, 22.

They were killed while working at the neighbouring Hobsonville Point School construction site.

The Hobsonville Tornado Families Trust has raised more than $60,000 for the families of the victims.

Trustee Nancy McConnell says the response has been overwhelming.

"Thanks to the generosity of the construction industry and members of the public, the families have been able to cope a little better in dealing with the tragedy," she says.

"I've spoken with the families and they want to relay how grateful they are."

New Zealand experiences seven to 10 moderate or strong tornadoes every year, the MetService says.

But unlike those in places such as the United States' Midwest, ours are much smaller in size, strength and life span.

Jacqui Bridges from MetService says warnings are issued for severe thunderstorms but not for tornadoes because they can occur at any time.

"Severe thunderstorm warnings have been issued since mid-2009 and there are ongoing refinements to the tools and techniques for forecasting thunderstorms."

To donate to the Hobsonville Tornado Families Fund make a deposit in the following account:

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Westpac Bank, Britomart Branch.

Account number: 03-1509-0165507-000.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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