Trees down, confidence up a month after storm
North Cantabrians hit by a tornado are still cleaning up their damaged properties a month on, but say life is slowly getting back to normal.
The tornado hit near Amberley about 6pm on February 23, in the midst of a severe thunder and hail storm.
Although most of the town was relatively unscathed, the tornado severely damaged four homes, uprooted dozens of trees, knocked over powerlines and left residents from Leithfield to the Waipara River in shock.
The cleanup began almost immediately after the tornado struck, with volunteers and contractors out in force clearing trees and offering support to affected residents.
Margaret Best, 80, was in the kitchen of her Double Corner Rd house when the storm struck.
She had lived in the house for almost 50 years and said it was the worst storm she had seen.
"It was six or seven minutes, then bang it was gone."
The gusts lifted the roof of her house and dumped it back on, damaged her woolshed and knocked over trees.
"The trees really copped it; it made an awful mess. It's sad to see all them go."
Builders were still busy working at her house, fixing guttering and rebuilding the garden shed.
"I've been very lucky. The neighbours were terrific. I'm so grateful for all the help that was given because at my age, I can't do much," she said.
"It could have been worse. Everyone was either in having tea or watching telly. I'm only too thankful no-one was hurt."
Pat and James Murray had just sat down for dinner when the tornado sent a large tree through their kitchen wall.
"Wind last year, snow, pestilence, earthquakes . . . it's just a joke really," Pat Murray said.
Their home, also on Double Corner Rd, had had its wind-damaged roof replaced following the tornado and about 40 fallen trees had been cut up to become firewood.
"I would suggest it's enough wood for several winters."
The couple still had to redo their garden after the tornado "whipped" up their carefully maintained property.
The support from the wider community had made the job much easier, including visits from Hurunui Mayor Winton Dalley, social services, and the delivery of baking from neighbours.
A Downer roading crew working nearby had also helped out, using their machinery to remove more debris in one hour than half a dozen men working over five weeks could have achieved by hand, Murray said.
"That was the breakthrough because we could not see how we were going to clear this place. We were just so grateful."
Neighbour Jynette Parker said her landlord and insurance company had worked quickly to get repairs under way, but there was still work to be done to repair her family's home. She remembered the tornado "vividly", saying it was the "scaredest I've ever been in my life".
The property was still looking a bit battered, but they had picked up "a trillion pine cones" and chopped up many trees.
"Things are getting back to looking a bit better."
- The Press