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Tornado chaos in New Plymouth

Published: 1:47PM Wednesday July 04, 2007 Source: Newstalk ZB/One News

A tornado ripped through parts of New Plymouth on Wednesday afternoon, tearing off shop roofs and injuring one person.

The tornado swept in from the sea and cut its way through three kilometres of New Plymouth's CBD leaving a trail of damage through to the city's racecourse.

New Plymouth's fire service says the twister was first sighted near Placemakers on Molesworth Street at 1pm and quickly tore up Gover Street, leaving damaged houses and shops in its wake.

Placemakers is believed to be the worst hit - its roof was torn off and left hanging in a tree across the road. Witness Nikki Castle says the roof "took off" and did "a big somersault".

"I looked up and the roof just totally flew off and then some mouldings, I was standing in the mouldings isle, they just started coming down on top of me and I was just running for my life," says Placemakers employee Scott Kearns.

A woman who was in Placemakers at the time was concussed from falling debris and was taken to hospital for observation.

Windows of several other buildings in the industrial area were also smashed and posts were pulled out of the ground.

Extra fire and police services from around the region were called into New Plymouth to assist and divert traffic. Within hours salvage crews began clearing the rubble.

There are also worries that more tornados might follow as thunderstorms continued to build off the coast.

Second tornado

Later on Wednesday afternoon roofs were lifted in the south east Auckland suburb of Golflands near Botany Downs as a mini-tornado swept thorough the area just before 4pm, leaving one person with injuries.

Botany Road was one of the streets most affected by the weather. A witness said shop signs and sheets of metal were blown across the street.

The fire service attended around 30 callouts to homes needing assistance after high winds tore tiles of roofs, and blew over fences and hedges.

A third tornado hit Tauranga, lifting roofs and smashing windows as part of an electrical storm that crossed the city at around 5:30pm.

A house in Laurence Street near Tauranga Hospital lost part of its roof and street residents say wood piles and outdoor furniture were sent flying.

Another house in Cambridge Heights on the outskirts of the city lost roof tiles.

According to the MetService website, tornadoes in New Zealand are usually short-lived, most lasting less than 10 minutes.

Tornado intensity is measured on the Fujita Scale which ranges from zero to five - five being the most intense.

New Zealand tornadoes are usually F0, but the Greymouth tornado in 2005 was an F1 or F2 and the fatal twister that demolished a house near Waitara killing two people was likely to have been an F4.

Did you get a picture or piece of video of the twister in action? Share it with the ONE News team with YOUR CAM

For up to date weather forecasts for your region check out the weather page