A small tornado has ripped out a fence in Himatangi Beach, near Palmerston North, before carrying on down State Highway One, sending a barn roof flying into power lines before cutting off electricity to the coastal area.
Residents on the coastal side of the Himatangi Beach village have reported seeing a tornado funnel rip through their backyard shortly before 3pm this afternoon, sending their garden fence flying into trees.
''The storm passing over Himatangi Beach was a tornado. It passed along the south side of my property, ripping the panelling off the fence and throwing garden pots etc in the air," resident Catherine Brown said.
"It sounded like a freight train, and was clearly visible as it moved east towards state highway one... Himatangi Beach residents were very lucky to have missed by the skin of their teeth.''
Her partner, former air traffic controller George Annear, said he had seen rotor clouds before and had no doubt a tornado had passed through the couple's backyard.
''It was the genuine article, no messing about. It was a bit too close for comfort.''
Annear described hearing lightning and a loud noise before seeing a small funnel with a base about the width of a small street tear through his garden fence.
''Its footprint was pretty small.''
''We were bloody lucky. If it had been a few more metres closer it would have damaged the house.''
Central Districts Police spokesman Ian Mackay said the tornado caused minor damage.
Himatangi Beach's volunteer fire brigade were called to assist a farmer whose barn's roof had been ripped off, a National Fire service spokeswoman said.
Power was restored shortly before 4pm.
The police report said the funnel was seen heading north down SH1 towards Palmerston North and then appeared to have died out, Mackay said.
Oroua Downs resident Vanessa McCosh did not see what tore through her property, also describing a ''train'' sound and calling it a ''horrifying'' experience.
''It definitely felt like a tornado, we were more or less in the heart of it... it started hailing and got louder and louder. The wind blew up and was swirling around and just roaring. I've been here 20 years and never heard anything like it."
The storm tore up her fence and was all over in a minute, McCosh said. A roof flew off a barn across the road on SH1 and the metal landed in a powerline and appeared to have caused the 45 minute power cut to the coastal area.
Metservice forecaster Paul Mallinson had been watching the radar screens and said it was possible a small tornado had formed from the thunderstom weather cell that had passed through the area.
''The storm that has come up the coast is more suggestive of thunder and gusty winds but you can never really can rule out a tornado, they can be very small,'' he said.
Thunderclaps were heard as heavy rain showers passed briefly through Palmerston North this afternoon and Bulls residents reported surface flooding as the storm passed northward.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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