Two Otago houses lost their roofs to strong winds when a mini "twister-like" event struck Cromwell in Central Otago.
Roofing iron and tiles were torn off two addresses in the town about 3pm.
A house in Ortive Street and one in Horace St were damaged in the event, and a clothes line was blown over and a large tree uprooted.
Police initially identified the phenomenon as a twister, but the MetService said the event was not a tornado but most likely a "dust devil".
Duty forecaster Heath Gullery said MetService had not received any evidence that it was a twister.
"Usually, for twisters to occur, there needs to be convective storm clouds and conditions and it's pretty dry down there."
Gullery said it was most likely to be either a particularly strong wind gust or a dust devil.
He said both could be incredibly strong, and do considerable damage.
MetService had issued a severe wind watch for the region, saying wind gusts could get close to severe gale about exposed parts of Southland and Otago throughout today.
Police said one female resident took refuge with her two young daughters in the bathroom until the winds passed.
No one was injured and the event only lasted a few minutes.
Fire service and police were helping the residents, however damage seemed to be fairly localised.