Thursday, 29 Jul 2021

‘Rapid storm’ in Auckland: Papatoetoe tornado tears down trees, damages homes

Parts of south Auckland have been hit by a violent tornado uprooting trees, severely damaging homes and bringing power lines down.

A truck lies on its side in a driveway, a home under construction has been destroyed and roofs have been pulled off houses. The power of the wind was so strong it has bent wrought iron fences.

The damage is centred around Wentworth Avenue in Papatoetoe. A resident said there was nothing left of his neighbour’s roof, a trampoline was in the middle of the street, and trees were down.

“It’s really bad I’ve never seen something like that.

“I can see my neighbour’s roof totally has gone there’s just nothing left of the roof even half of my other neighbour’s roof has gone.”

He said there was shattered glass and he could see bad damage down the whole street.

More than 20 fire crews are working with police and ambulance in the area.

Another resident, Prakash Patel, was sheltering inside the Shree Swaminarayan Temple inwhen the tornado came through about 8.15am.

He said there were about four trees ripped down outside on Wentworth Ave and 15 or so fences destroyed.

“Inside the temple there is a door where the glass was damaged,” Patel said.

“The glass was completely cracked and fell down. It was kind of dangerous. It [the tornado] was in Wilmay Ave and Wentworth Ave outside the houses there are fences damaged.

“Some of the houses – the roofs are out and many many houses are damaged completely. A lot of damage.”

A man living next door to the temple was busy pulling his trampoline off his front fence.

It had been standing in the backyard of the property but was picked up and tossed over the house, landing stuck on the front fence.

He said his son was saw the gust. His son was watching the rain at the home’s front window when he saw the gust and trampoline land on the fence and ran back inside, saying “Papa, something has happened.”

The wind gust took only about 3-4 seconds towreak damage on about five to 10 homes on the street, the man said.

One home that had recently been bought by first home buyers had had tiles ripped off its roof and a fence blown over. A man inspecting damage to the home could be seen popping his head out the top of the roof where blown away tiles had left a hole.

Dr Kanti Patel lives on Wilmay Ave and says his house had the roof smashed in, his fence destroyed and a “huge” tree ripped from it’s roots landed just two metres from his bedroom where he was.

“Obviously sure [it was dangerous]. On Wilmay Ave the tree fell into the fence and my bedroom was just two metres away,” Patel said.

“I don’t know where the tree came off the root – just this huge tree and fell onto our fence where my bedroom is.”

“We have this huge complex at number 10, 12 on Wentworth Ave and 15 Wilmay Ave and I’m just assessing a few things but I know in Wilmay Ave where I stay it ripped off the fence, the tree fell onto it, the glass was broken, the fence was gone.”

Victoria has been with her mum putting her son into a car in the driveway of their Wentworth Ave home when the tornado blew in all of a sudden.

It buffeted her with such force she had to bend down to keep her balance, as she shielded her infant son in her arms.

She and her mum pressed themselves against the side of the house for shelter as the wind roared about them and debris began flying.

A large branch from the pine tree behind them was brought down behind them and blown into the back of the car – leaving a crack in it – where they had just been.

The three ran around the back and into the house where her worried husband rushed to meet them.

The couple’s five year old son was left frightened and crying for the next 20 minutes.

Victoria said she was lucky she had been on the left hand side of the new home they only bought last November.

That was because the major force of the tornado hit the right side of the home.

Standing on the right side of the home, the path of the tornado could be seen as it passed along a narrow band into the home of the neighbours behind.

Fire teams had arrived on Wentworth Ave by 10am to inspect the damage and talk to residents.

Papatoetoe mum Melissa Aubroeck described the tornado as terrifying. She said she commented to her children that a really big plane must be landing since it was so noisy.

“Then the wind started and we just watched rubbish flying through the sky. Then just as fast it was over and super calm.”

MetService meteorologist Andrew James said there had been 1500 lightening strikes over the past six hours, with just one hitting on land in Auckland.

“The atmosphere is what we call unstable, so conducive to thunderstorms and there are the ingredients there for the possibility of a tornado.”

He said the thunderstorm would have been quick and fast moving. The front is now moving south over the country.

Kiwis have woken to a wet and dreary Saturday morning across much of the country, as heavy overnight falls led to sports being called off in Auckland.

Children’s football at Western Springs in the city’s inner west was among cancelled competitions affecting hundreds of families as organisers pointed to surface flooding and ongoing rain this morning. Other sports poiised for this afternoon across Auckland are also being called off.

Motorists were also being warned to take care on roads expected to become slippery and with reduced visibility throughout the weekend as heavy rain watches came into effect for much of the North Island’s east.

Meanwhile, the St Lukes branch of Farmers was closed this morning “due to flooding”.

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