Mini-tornadeos in Central Otago throw fences 500 metres
Cromwell police warned Cromwell residents to stay indoors after pieces of tin, fences and a trampoline were thrown around by mini-tornadoes.
Sergeant Bruce Terry of Cromwell police said some fences had been blown 400 to 500 metres.
"Quite a bit of tin has flown all over the place", he said.
High winds in the Central Otago town caused havoc in the new subdivision of Summerfields Estate, with Waenga Dr being especially hard-hit.
Police warned motorcyclists and drivers of heavy vehicles to avoid travelling through the Cromwell Basin due to the winds, and said people in the Summerfields area should stay inside and away from windows.
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Powerlines had fallen onto some roads and "police are aware of trailers which have overturned and damage to fences and windows".
Cromwell resident Nicole Barnes was working in a warehouse and said she ran for the roller door before the big winds came, and was forced to hold onto other doors to stop them from breaking.
"I had the big door for the warehouse open and suddenly the wind picked up and all the doors flew wide open.
"I tried to stop the office from flying everywhere but a couple of the windows blew open too and everything went everywhere."
"There was dirt and stones, and big chunks of mud all over the place", she said.
"We had to sweep the whole place out and keep the doors shut after that."
She said she was on break when the first one came through about 3pm, and then the next two seemed to arrive on the hour.
Barnes said they had no warning before the tornado arrived.
It was a "wee bit windy and stinking hot" then it all happened at once, she said.
Although it was the first time Barnes had experienced the strong gusts, she said Cromwell "gets them every now and then. They seem to just pop up every so often."
Brendan Davis and his father were working outside when they "felt it building up". He said the dust storm was blinding, and he could feel stones bouncing off the back of his legs when he ran to the door to get inside, but his mother had already locked it.
Davis said the tornado started in the yard in front of theirs, and had accumulated enough dirt to cover a 25m-high tower crane from vision. A roof from a neighbour's shed was ripped up, thrown around in two full somersaults 20m in the air and thrown to the next door property in the gusts.
He said it "look a while for everything to start tearing off", and lasted about two minutes in total.
The third mini-tornado, at about 5.10pm, had been the worst the Alexandra resident had ever felt and left about 20 litres of dirt scattered around the workshop in a "big mess".
Andy Vause saw the tornado from his car and said it was "an impressive funnel of wind".
He said it was approximately 70m high, about the height of a twenty-story building, and strong enough to pick up small branches and kick up a lot of dust with it.