High winds whip up 'mini tornado'

02:57, Oct 05 2012

High winds whipped up a ''mini-tornado'' in downtown Wellington this afternoon coating a shop and a cycle courier in swirls of dust.

Angelique Highgate, who works at Wishbone at the north end of Lambton Quay, said the intense whirling gust was ''kind of frightening'' and ''came out of nowhere.''

Ms Highgate said the shop was blanketed with dust as the winds swept through, coating plastic cutlery with the grit, which had to be thrown out.

''It was like a mini-tornado - it was kind of breathtaking. It was unreal.''

MetService chief forecaster Peter Kreft said although it may have looked like a small twister the phenomenon was in fact caused by high winds being ''given a spin'' by surrounding terrain and buildings.

''They can be quite vigorous and deep and surprisingly strong.''

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The wild winds are part of a front that has brought gusts of up to 140kmh to the Wellington region this afternoon.

A 140kmh gust was recorded at Castlepoint while 120kmh gusts were recorded at Wellington airport and Kelburn.

Rain is set to fall overnight and clear before morning with the possibility of showers in the afternoon as a sunny weekend sets in.

Contact Matt Stewart
Weather, science and environment reporter
Email: matt.stewart@dompost.co.nz
Twitter: @smatape

The Dominion Post