Tornado rips through Mt Maunganui
Stunned residents gathered on the paths of what is typically a quiet cul de sac in Mount Maunganui on Friday to survey the damage of a tornado that ripped through it. The tornado hit just before 8.30pm on Thursday, damaging homes and buildings, causing havoc with powerlines, pulling down fences and scattering debris across roads.
Lodge Ave was one of the worst hit areas with winds tearing roofs from houses, downing trees and blowing insulation through the streets.
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Three trampolines had been spun into the Mount Maunganui Intermediate school grounds from neighbouring properties up to 100 metres away.
One home lost two thirds of its roof, which ended up outside the school's front entrance, said Mount Maunganui Intermediate principal Lisa Morresey.
"A trampoline came from about 100 metres down the road, through the car park and flew into the corner. There were piles of debris, roofing from houses, piled in the corners of the school grounds, the office windows had been blown in and back out, with debris inside."
The most heartbreaking destruction was the damage to the school's new turf, worth $120,000.
"We had just had it upgraded through community grants, the fences are buckled, hockey goals have been lifted about 20 or 30 metres, you can just see the path of the tornado."
Winds on the school's weather station, which remained intact, measured 175kmh.
They were strong enough to bend 10cm steel shade sail poles, rip the sails off and tear down fencing.
Morresey had made the decision to close the school for the day at 9.30pm Thursday.
"I'm really glad we made that decision after seeing the damage this morning. The whole school was covered in debris, three trampolines from here different areas ended up on school grounds.
"The blessing is it didn't happen during school hours."
Morresey was thankful there was no structural damage to the main buildings.
Areas would be cordoned off before the school reopened on Monday.
Down the road Sharon Wright was still trying to deal with the devastation.
"It is just overwhelming, I don think I have slept at all," she said.
Wright, who is pregnant, had been at home with her husband and three children under four-years-old when the tornado pummelled through.
"There was this really loud bang, I just grabbed the kids, made sure they were okay, we grabbed photo albums, some paperwork, whatever clothes we could for the kids and got out, we only had a short time before the power went out."
Winds took off two thirds of the Wrights' roof off, leaving heavy rain to flood the home.
"The roof ended up in Mount Maunganui intermediate. The fire brigade came through and covered what they could, but it's just flooded - the bathroom bedrooms, kitchen, dining room, everything."
The family had left for the night and arrived back on Friday to a sodden home.
"There were four homes in a row all the same and it looks like it has just hit our house," said Wright.
"The storage people are coming through, take what they can, and we'll have to rip up the carpet."
Clean up operations were in full swing along the street with residents checking in each other and loading debris into skips.
Surviving the Tornado
Bev Mayson heard the cracking of timber before the roof of her Waitui Grove home flew off into the neighbour's yard.
"It all happened fairly quickly, in about 30 seconds there was a loud bang, crack and a crash, the noise was horrendous."
Water began pouring through the roof, flooding the second level of Bev and husband Jon's house.
"We weren't sure what had happened, we went out the back door and the roof was in the backyard of the neighbours, everything landed over there. Upstairs is just flooded."
"The flat section was completely torn off. We had to turn the power off."
Firefighters were on site within 10 minutes moving furniture from upstairs to the lower level, but there was no way to stop the heavy rain pouring through."
Builders hired to renovate the bathroom found themselves ripping up carpet and helping remove furniture Friday morning.
"They have taken the roof away, cleaned up," said Jon.
"All this can be fixed, you can't fix people that are broken. It is so lucky no one was injured."
"All the houses around us are untouched, it was like thunder and then it was all gone."
"It's like being struck by lightning, you never expect to be hit by a tornado in New Zealand is not something that happens every day."
The tornado had left 11 homes and five commercial properties near Baypark Stadium severely damaged.
HIT BY NEIGHBOUR'S ROOF
Mount Maunganui resident Murray Gough walked out to find his neighbour's roof had crashed into his property following the tornado.
"We heard the wind and this almighty crash as the whole roof, in one piece, landed on top and punctured two holes in our roof...the water just came pouring in."
Gough said within minutes the tornado had whipped through, splitting the branches of a pohutukawa, and sending ceiling insulation into the air.
"We thought it was our roof and looked up to see Jon's insulation all over his roof. The wind smashed the branches of the pohutukawa.
"They only thing that could do that sort of localised, fairly violent, would be a tornado."
The Goughs, who had lived in Mount Maunganui for 27 years, had sold their property and settled on Friday.
"We had the poor new owner through this morning.
"I would imagine it was a freak weather event, from the forecast thought it would be rain but we weren't too concerned about it until the strength of the wind got up."
A terrified Mount Maunganui family had no warning of a sudden tornado which ripped the roof off their home.
Tauranga fire senior station officer Mark Keller said he and a crew went to the aid of several badly damaged homes after the tornado struck.
The worst damage he saw was to a home on Waitui Gr in Mount Maunganui.
"About three quarters of their roof had come off and it had been blown on to the neighbour's roof."
The family had no warning of the tornado before what they had described as "a sudden loud noise and ripping sound."
They were "understandably upset," Keller said.
The home was uninhabitable, so the Fire Service had helped to secure their belongings.
HOMES, STADIUM DAMAGED
The tornado moved through Waitui Gr, Golf Rd, Lodge Ave, Ascot, Epsom, and Owens Pl through to Bay Park.
There were reports of over 20 houses with roofs lifted off, and 11 with significant damage, as well as damage to five commercial properties, Bay of Plenty Civil Defence said.
Damage forced at least eight families to leave their homes on Thursday night, Bay of Plenty fire chief Murray Binning told Radio New Zealand.
Along with damage to homes, the twister had hit commercial properties, including Bay Park Stadium.
The storm had ripped the roofing off about three of the stadium's bays, flinging it across the field and out into the street.
Around 10 per cent of the roof was ripped off, with debris left lying in a nearby field.
Bay Venues chief executive Gary Dawson told Newstalk ZB it would take a while to repair the damage.
"It looks like it's clipped the roof of the speedway stadium, so it's taken out about 10 to 15 per cent of the roof."
There were no reports of injuries, Tauranga Mayor Stuart Crosby said.
Mt Maunganui Intermediate was closed today as a result of "considerable damage" to the school grounds from the twister, a statement on the school's webpage said.
"As there are health and safety hazards, the school will be closed on Friday 15th May. Ministry personnel will be in tomorrow morning to make an assessment and we will inform you of any further developments."
Insurance claims were starting to come in from the tornado as well as yesterday's floods in the Wellington region, but Insurance Council CEO Tim Grafton said it would take time for the full damage to be assessed. "It takes some weeks for us to get the numbers of claims and costs of damage from our members," he said.