Storm brings hail, tornado to Canterbury

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Last updated 20:13 23/02/2014
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Canterbury thunderstorm: Bolts of lightning hit Kaiapoi.

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Tornado as seen from Waipara

Tornado forms in Canterbury

Large hail strikes Canterbury

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A second tornado has swept through Amberley in north Christchurch, damaging homes, felling trees and bringing down power lines.

Amberley resident Leanne McTear was on her doorstep when the tornado struck her home, ripping the roof off and hurling it across the road.

"Everything went dark and there was just black dust and smoke whirling around,'' she said.

"There was a horrendous noise and I was waiting for the ground to move. It was really noisy and I didn't know what was going on. I saw bricks on the front lawn and Pink Batts everywhere. At the moment I am quite numb.'' 

Blue Skies forecaster Tony Trewinnard saw the tornado form and travel from north of Amberley for about two or three minutes.

He said it was travelling at about 70 kilometres an hour and hurled debris about 100 metres into the air.

More than 1,000 homes in Canterbury have lost electricity in today's storm, according to power company Orion.

A Fire Service spokesman said three properties were damaged in Amberley, including one that had its roof ripped off.

Lightning strikes had caused a small fire in Halswell and there had been a handful of damage reports, including leaking roofs at Burnham Military Camp.

Amberley residents Donna and Geoff Graham saw ‘‘trees shredded’’ by the tornado before hail battered their house.

‘‘I was really frightened...it was just so dark-looking and it was so close,'' Donna Graham said.

The couple photographed the tornado and filmed a short video before they lost power and decided to drive to a neighbour’s house.

She said debris started hitting her home and she was scared the windows were going to smash.

‘‘On one hand, it’s really magnificent but I was ready to hide in the cupboard if I had to.’’

Burrows said the smaller tornado in the Leeston area kicked up dust.

''It seemed to be about 100 metres wide, but quite weak,'' he said.

He said the tornado reached down to the ground.

''It wasn't a traditional, American one where it is a direct line from the cloud to the ground, but you could see it reached the ground and it was full of dust.''

Canterbury resident Inca Woodroffe saw the tornado from her home.

''I was watching the thunder and lightning and I could see the swirling front of the storm.

''It was moving slowly, but then it started to get a bit faster in the middle and the clouds came down and formed a funnel. It was coming down lower and lower.''

Southbridge farmer Justine Menzies lost between 15 and 20 trees.

"I was in the house when it happened. It was like a roar. I've never heard wind like it."

CLASSES AS 'SUPERCELL'

Met Service meteorologist Chris Noble said the storm was "technically classed as a supercell" and had caused heavy rail, large hail stones and small tornadoes.

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"When a thunderstorm grows and exhibits those severe characteristics, it's a supercell," he said.

While the tornado reported near Southbridge had not shown on the Met Service's radar, Noble did not doubt its existence.

"When they are formed over water, we call them water spouts...and if it's formed from a cloud but doesn't touch the ground, it's a funnel," he said.

They could sometimes cause damage but were "nothing like what the midwest experiences in the USA".

A Christchurch police spokesman said trees that fell on power lines at Southbridge sparked a fire in a paddock.

The storm is expected to move north this evening. 

Earlier today, MetService forecaster John Crouch warned parts of Canterbury could be affected by ''large, damaging hail and squally winds'' gusting up to 100 kmh.

He said some hail stones could be bigger than 2cm in diameter. It could cause damage to crops and make driving conditions dangerous, Crouch said.

He advised people to move their vehicles undercover to avoid damage such as broken windscreens.

North Otago and Canterbury would likely be worst affected, Crouch said. Damaging hail storms usually affected parts of Canterbury two or three times each summer. 

The Ministry of Civil Defence and Emergency Management advises that as storms approach you should:

- Take shelter, preferably indoors away from windows;
- Avoid sheltering under trees, if outside;
- Move cars under cover or away from trees;
- Secure any loose objects around your property;
- Check that drains and gutters are clear;
- Be ready to slow down or stop, if driving.

During and after the storm, you should also:

- Beware of fallen trees and power lines;
- Avoid streams and drains as you may be swept away in flash flooding.

- The Press

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