Wild weather hits North
Stuff.co.nz
Last updated 15:07 11/05/2009

Wild weather has hit the upper North Island, bringing hail to Tauranga and a tornado to Warkworth.

Residents of a rented home in Westpark Glen, Warkworth, escaped unharmed this afternoon after the tornado pulled the roof off, scattering the tiles in their backyard and puncturing holes through the ceiling.

"I heard it coming and once it was on us I thought it was a big gust of wind," says Murray Dunn. "I could see things being thrown around outside and the manhole inside was lifting up. It lasted about 30 seconds."

Warkworth firefighters quickly removed a number of tiles to stop them falling through the ceiling. A roofing contractor is repairing the damage.

Resident Raewyn Hudson said the tornado came from the northwest and went southeast down the no exit road. It knocked over TV aerials, birdbaths, uprooted small trees and broke branches.

"The rain was horizontal," she says. "It twisted and I thought 'what's happening'. It was scary."

Another neighbour was left looking for his greenhouse roof, and a caravan on Melwood Dr tipped on to its side.

The tornado lost momentum as it passed over the town's retail area and headed towards Snells Beach.

Power was cut in warkworth for about 10 minutes.

In the Bay of Plenty, the storm badly damaged a shopping centre and coated roads with hail and ice.

Police evacuated Tauranga's Bayfair Shopping Centre due to flooding. A Fire Service spokesman there had been "extensive damage" to the mall.

"There's a lot of hail and it sounds like it's blocked the drains and basically the mall got flooded from that," he said.

Sections of the ceiling had also fallen down and damaged the sprinkler system. He was unsure how many people had been evacuated.

Flooding had hit roads in the area, with Senior Sergeant Deirdre Lack of Mt Maunganui Police saying the hail had blocked drains and prevented the heavy rain from draining away.

"It was pretty bad. We actually had to divert traffic due to the flooding – there were cars stuck in it," she said.

Ms Lack said the flooding had lessened and expected the roads to be back to normal in an hour.

Tauranga City Council spokesman Marcel Currin said that most of the surface flooding was at Mount Maunganui and Papamoa.

Mr Currin said it appeared the damage to the roof of the mall, which caused the ceiling to collapse, was due to the heavy hail.

Oceanbeach Road in Mount Maunganui has recently been opened to traffic though motorists are being urged to drive carefully due to ice on the road surface.

Ice had also formed on State Highway 2.

Police said the storm was heading toward Te Puke.

Metservice spokeswoman Kathleen Kozyniak said there had also been thunderstorms and lightning in the Western Bay of Plenty Area.

She said 11.6mm of rain had been recorded at Tauranga Airport today with seven millimetres coming in a particularly heavy burst.

The bad weather was forecast to remain in the area, she said.

- MICHAEL FOX and MICHAEL FIELD

From here.