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West Auckland tornado: As it happened

Published: 1:15PM Thursday December 06, 2012 Source: ONE News

As it happened: ONE News's coverage of the deadly tornado that hit the west Auckland suburb of Hobsonville on Thursday.

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  • Three people have been confirmed dead
  • Auckland Civil Defence has been activated
  • 1,300 properties remain without power
  • A small tornado also struck Ngongotaha, beside Lake Rotorua

9.12pm: Auckland Civil Defence says the highest recorded gust of wind this afternoon was 151km/h at Snapper Rock, in the suburb of Albany.

9.06pm: About 40 people are still inside a riding school in Rotorua after a mini tornado ripped through the suburb of Hamurana this afternoon.

Rotorua District Council emergency manager Pauline Hitchcock says staff from the council are working to clear the road.

She says that work is expected to take around four-hours to complete.

8.25pm: Watch this startling footage of a driver racing through the tornado.

8.07pm: Vector says its crews are still working to restore electricty to some 1,300 customers without power after the tornado.

"Customers in the tornado affected area who don't have power tonight are unlikely to be restored before morning," it says.

8.02pm: Loughlin says the names of those killed in the Hobsonville tornado have not yet been released as not all next of kin have been notified.

A police cordon remains in place at the construction site where the three workmen were killed, he says.

7.55pm: Police spokesman Kevin Loughlin says about 65 officers are working with other emergency services and agencies in Hobsonville and Whenuapai and will be kept busy "well into the night".

"Residents can have reassurance that everything is being done to protect their damaged homes and property. Police extend their condolences to the immediate families of all the deceased," he says.

7.35pm: The bodies of two workers killed when the tornado struck a building site in Hobsonville have been taken away from the scene in hearses.

7.26pm: Click here to see aerial footage of the tornado damage in Hobsonville.

7.05pm: Civil Defence says more bad weather is predicted from midnight in Auckland.

It warns showers may become heavy and winds could reach 100km/h.

6.56pm: A spokeswoman for Minister of Civil Defence Chris Tremain confirms that a small tornado struck Ngongotaha.

"There has been extensive tree damage, but no confirmed property damage," the spokeswoman says.

"A tree is blocking a road and preventing children in a school hall from leaving, but they are being well looked after."







6.41pm: Auckland Airport says storm warning operational restrictions have been lifted.

"Airport, ground-handling and airline staff are working hard to commence clearing the backlog of flights," it says.

6.35pm: Farmer Chris Heywood tells ONE News the tornado in Ngongotaha lifted him off the ground.

There have also been reports of cars and horses being lifted into the air.

6.28pm: Auckland Council Civil Defence says transport is difficult in many parts of Auckland and motorists should travel to the conditions.

"There is surface flooding or debris on some roads, particularly in West Auckland," it says.

"If you can avoid using the roads, please do so. Long delays are reported in some areas."

6.23pm: MetService says it has lifted its Severe Thunderstorm Watches and Warnings.

However, it says there are still Severe Weather Warnings and Watches for heavy rain and gales in places.

6.16pm: Vector says it has found localised damage to its network around Herald Island.

It says eight poles and three transformers in Waimarie and Totara Roads need replacing and customers fed from this part of the network "will unfortunately be affected by an extended outage".

"Due to the nature of the damage; alternative generation of supply is not an option," it says. "If customers in this area have medical dependencies, they are urged to make alternative arrangements or alert emergency services."

6.12pm: Power Company Vector says there are approximately 1,300 customers still without electricity after today's tornado.

"We have crews on site working to restore supply; however work has been impacted due to traffic congestion and the extensive damage to roads and properties," it says in a statement.







6.09pm:'s Renee Girven, in Hobsonville, says more houses are being condemned and dozens of police and Air Force personnel remain at the scene. 

6.05pm: ONE News reporter Barbara Dreaver, at Whenuapai, says emergency services received 80 to 100 calls immediately after the tornado struck this afternoon.

6.03pm: Lisa Owen says shellshocked residents had been leaving the tornado-damaged area, taking possessions with them.

She says many of the buildings in Hobsonville are no longer watertight with broken windows and trees through windows.

6.02pm: ONE News reporter Lisa Owen says funeral cars have arrived at the scene of the tornado in Hobsonville.

5.59pm: Auckland Airport says "limited airport operations have resumed and some arriving flights have been able to land".

"A number of arriving flights have already been diverted to other airports," it says in a statement.

"Passengers are thanked for their patience. In the meantime, airlines and airport agencies are working to establish a priority order for when full operations can resume and the backlog can continue to be cleared."

5.46pm: MetService says it has lifted the Severe Thunderstorm Warning for the Gisborne/Hawkes Bay area.

5.42pm: Hawkins Construction confirms there were fatalities and injuries suffered by a number of subcontractors at its Hobsonville School building site.

Hawkins Construction Executive General Manager, Dan Ashby says the company's immediate focus is on supporting the affected workers’ families, and its staff and subcontractors on site.

Ashby says Hawkins is also working to assist police and other services on site.







5.35pm: Readers have been sending in some dramatic images of the west Auckland tornado and the damage it caused. Click here to view them .

5.27pm: Air New Zealand says the situation is "constantly changing" but a number of flights from Auckland have been cancelled.

"We have cancelled 15 domestic services that were scheduled to depart Auckland and eight international departures scheduled through to the early evening have been rescheduled," spokeswoman Marie Hosking says. 

5.17pm: Corporal Marc Oliver at Hobsonville, says the tornado was a "sobering experience".

"I was in the garage at the time and felt the wind picking up thinking nothing of it and then all of sudden debris was flying everywhere and a friend of mine was knocked in the head by a garage door and fell to the floor hard as she was trying to get to her husband who was outside getting something from his car.

"As soon as it finished all I could think about was my girlfriend and my two dogs who were at home 300 metres down the road and I ran as fast as I could to get home. They were safe," he said.

"It makes you realise how close knit the Air Force community is when something like this happens, everyone was making sure everyone was safe and sound."

5.15pm: Renee Girven says the Air Force has begun cleaning up debris from the tornado.

A number of houses have been deemed uninhabitable  and have been marked with an orange cross, she says.

5.13pm:'s Renee Girven, in Hobsonville, says residents described people screaming and in tears when the tornado struck.

One man, who was outside Wallingford Way when it hit, said he saw cars lifted off the ground.

5.09pm: MetService tweets: "Cell causing Ngongotaha tornado now moving over Mahia and out to sea."

5.04pm: NIWA meteorologist Dr Richard Turner says a tornado will typically last for "a few minutes", track across the land for 2km to 5km and have a diameter of 20m to 100m.

"In New Zealand most tornadoes are associated with pre-frontal squall lines - bands of thunderstorms embedded in strong unstable pre-frontal northwesterly flow," he says.

"The thunderstorms have very strong updrafts and if these occur in an environment in which the wind directions rotate as the air rises, the updraft can start to spin and a mesocyclone can form. It is from these mesocylcones, that can be as little as 1-2 kilometres across, that tornadoes are spawned."







5.02pm: NIWA says tornados like the one today are relatively rare in New Zealand.

"Auckland is hit by a tornado on average less than once per year, but there is considerable variability from year to year with some years getting none," meteorologist Dr Richard Turner says.

4.56pm: MetService issues a severe thunderstorm warning for Gisborne and Wairoa.

It says it has detected severe thunderstorms near Wairoa, Tiniroto, Te Reinga, Ruakituri and Tukemokihi.

"These severe thunderstorms are moving towards the southeast, and are expected to lie near Mahia Peninsula, Nuhaka and Morere at 4pm and offshore southeast of Mahia peninsula at 5.30pm," it warns.

It says the thunderstorms are expected to be accompanied by very heavy rain, large hail, damaging wind gusts and possible tornados.

A Severe Thunderstorm Watch remains in force for Bay of Plenty, Rotorua, Taupo and Waikato.

4.43pm: Auckland Transport says bus route 130 is resuming normal operation travelling via Brigham Creek Road.

"Delays are expected in the area," it says.

4.42pm: Vector has a list of power outages in the Auckland area on its website.

4.37pm: Auckland Mayor Len Brown extends his condolences and commiserations to the families of those who have died.

"This is a real tragedy and my heart goes out to the community and to the company for which the deceased were working," he says.

"A number of people are in hospital and they have my best wishes for a speedy recovery." 

 4.35pm: ONE News reporter Barbara Dreaver says the bodies of two of the people who died are believed to still be on the site where the tornado hit.

She says police are conducting a grid search of the area to make sure they haven't missed anyone.

"The area that they're looking in and checking - it's a 1km grid search," she says.








4.32pm: NZTA's acting State Highways Manager for Auckland and Northland, Steve Mutton, says the agency is doing "everything we can" to get traffic running smoothly and safely.

"We ask drivers to be patient, not follow too closely and use their headlights in case heavy rain reduces visibility," he says.

4.30pm: NZTA says SH18's Squadron Drive on and off ramps remain closed "until further notice".

4.28pm: NZTA says it has re-opened State Highway 18 (the Hobsonville Motorway).

NZTA's acting State Highways Manager for Auckland and Northland, Steve Mutton says the closure - together with the storm - is "responsible for widespread congestion across the Auckland motorway network this evening".

4.25pm: Auckland Transport says all bus services are likely to be delayed, especially in West Auckland.

It says there is no direct service between New Lynn and Takapuna via route 130 and a shuttle service is operating between Takapuna and Greenhithe and New Lynn to Westgate.

All trains and ferries are still operating as per schedule but the 5.30pm Auckland to West Harbour ferry service will be operated by a bus replacement, it says.







4.12pm: MetService has begun a blog of information on the North Island thunderstorms. You can read it here .

4.05pm: Auckland Airport says all scheduled domestic and international flights are now currently experiencing delays.

4.02pm: Auckland Council says electricity is off in Henderson, Greenhithe, Hobsonville, Riverhead, Meadowbank and St Johns.

3.58pm: Civil Defence says "about 150 homes have been displaced at Whenuapai and many have been deemed uninhabitable or are without power".

Some 250 affected residents have been taken to Whenuapai Air Force Base, it says.

3.56pm: Civil Defence confirms three people have been killed and seven have been hospitalised as a result of the tornado.

"Those affected were believed to be involved in the construction of a school at Hobsonville Point and/or were hit by a tree," it says in a statement.

3.52pm: View footage of today's devastating tornado hitting Hobsonville.

3.47pm: MetService says the severe thunderstorm watch has been lifted for Auckland but continues further south/east, especially in eastern Waikato and Bay of Plenty.







3.43pm: The New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) says its contractors are assessing SH18. "It will reopen when we are sure it is safe," the agency tweets.

3.40pm: The Prime Minister has issued a statement extending his condolences to the friends and families of the people who died.

 "This must have been an extremely frightening situation for many people in the local community," he said. "I'd like to thank the emergency services staff, who are responding to the situation. It's critical they are able to focus on the response.

"This extreme weather event occurred in the heart of my electorate as well as Paula Bennett's electorate. I have been kept informed of the situation throughout the afternoon and am continuing to receive updates."

3.20pm: Latest from Auckland Airport - a number of flights have been cancelled to and from Whangarei and New Plymouth, and a number of other flights have been delayed due to severe weather protocols slowing down operations.

2.42pm Vector says lines that are down should be treated as live and report the incident on 111.

2.40pm The NZ transport Agency says there is a danger of surface flooding on the Auckland motorway network due to severe storms sweeping across the city.

2.35pm Auckland Council has closed the following outdoor pools for the rest of today: Pt Erin Baths, Parnell Baths, Onehunga War Memorial Pool (outdoor only), Grey Lynn, Cameron Pool, Mt Roskill (outdoor pool only), Lagoon Leisure and Fitness, Panmure (outdoor pool only).

2.30pm Auckland Civil Defence has been activated for tornado and weather event

2.25pm Auckland Transport advises motorists to take extreme care on the roads this afternoon and to avoid driving, if possible.

2.23pm: Thunderstorms and flooding reported in Oratia, near the West Auckland coast.

2.18pm: Buck Rogers writes on the ONE News Facebook page, that he has never seen anything like it.

We got hit in the middle of a paddock. Lightening was hitting the trees above us as we ran for cover. This was in Woodhill and I've never seen anything like it. It blew in from the north west and it was the most menacing blackest wall of cloud I've ever seen. And it was funnelling towards Whenuapai.

2.15pm: Alexandro Hazelhurst says it's chaotic at Auckland's domestic terminal. "There are planes on the runway but they are not letting people off the planes due to worries about lightning strikes."  







2.11pm: MetService warns there is the likelihood of more tornados may be experienced in the next few hours.

A Severe Weather warning affects people in Auckland, Manukau, North Shore, Rodney, Franklin, Thames and Coromandel.

These severe thunderstorms are moving towards the eastsoutheast, and are expected to lie near Waiheke Island by 2.22pm, and near the Firth of Thames by 2.52pm.

2.10pm: Police have set up an operational base at Whenuapai near where the worst of the damage is reported.

2.06pm: Northern Regional Operations Manager Murray Holt says St John are assessing a number of patients.

2.02pm: North Shore Hospital's emergency department has been cleared in preparation for those injured in the tornado.

1.56pm: Auckland Transport advises motorists to take extreme care on the roads this afternoon and to avoid driving, if possible.

There is also surface flooding right across Auckland after torrential rain.

1.50pm: Bus services are suspended to Herald Island route 093 and Hobsonville Point routes 092 and 093. Some other services may be disrupted.

1.45pm: People are not being allowed on planes at Auckland Airport

1.40pm There has been confirmation of two deaths in the tornado that hit west Auckland

1.20pm There are unconfirmed reports of death from the tornado

On Twitter many people are describing hearing heavy rain and loud sirens after the tornado ripped through the area.

1.15pm - Power has been cut from shops at the WestField WestCity mall. The car park is closed due to flooding.

1.14pm  WestWave - the roof has not fallen off. But there is minor flooding, that is under control now.

1.12pm - There have also been reports of windows blown out of houses, tiles flew off roof tops, and trees lying on roads.

1:10pm - Reports of damage to power cables, trees and property are coming in, and the Fire Service is said to be inundated with calls.

1pm On Twitter many people are describing hearing heavy rain and loud sirens after the tornado ripped through the area.