Twister touches down in Waikato
'It looked pretty dangerous'MATT BOWEN AND HARRY PEARL
A tornado hit the ground south of Hamilton yesterday and contract milker Colin Krippner got dangerously close to it as wild weather tightened its grip on the country.
The 47-year-old was watching television at his Paterangi home when he heard a thunderstorm rumbling outside.
And about 3.10pm the funnel cloud dropped out of the dark sky.
"It probably stayed on the ground for 10 minutes and looked pretty dangerous, so I rang the police just in case," Mr Krippner said.
He also managed to snap a photo of the twister as it tore through a neighbouring property.
"I talked to someone who was near it, and they said there were branches and leaves flying around."
It was the most severe tornado he had seen in the area.
The unusual sight was just one early manifestation of a mid-winter storm that is making its way up the country and is likely to peak in Waikato today.
River levels also surged yesterday after periods of torrential rain across the region, but nature has more in store with severe weather warnings issued for coming days. Snow showers may hit the Desert Road today and there may be significant accumulation from tonight until Saturday morning. Anywhere from 20 to 30 centimetres is expected to fall above 800 metres, with lesser amounts predicted to 600m.
A severe gale warning is in force for the Waikato, with stiff northwesterlies up to 85kmh predicted to turn southwest tonight.
Such strong winds have the potential to bring down trees and powerlines, and to make driving dangerous for high sided vehicles and motorcycles.
The region's waterways are already swollen with plenty of rain in recent days.
In Hamilton, the Waikato River level at Victoria Bridge rose 0.85m between 8pm on Tuesday and 4pm yesterday. On the Waipa River, near Otewa, the water level peaked at 6am yesterday - jumping 0.6m in 12 hours. Waikato Regional Council spokesman Stephen Ward said many Waikato rivers, particularly in the west of the region, had risen as a result of the heavy rain. "All of the catchments are saturated with quite a bit of water.
"So when you've got flooded ground it means more heavy rainfall goes into the rivers."
Although levels were not a worry to the council at present, Mr Ward advised farmers to keep an eye on the forecast, and ensure their cellphones were switched on if they received automatic updates about rises in river levels.
The region has been buffeted by wild weather over the past two days, bringing strong winds, widespread rain and hail.
In the Waikato Regional Council's Waingaro catchment, 30 millimetres of rain fell in the 24 hours to 3.20pm yesterday; and in the Waitanguru catchment in Waitomo district, 33.5mm fell in the 24 hours until 3.20pm yesterday.
MetService's five-day forecast for Hamilton showed rain right through the week, with overnight temperatures dropping as low as 1 degree Celsius.