A mini tornado ripped a trail of destruction through Papamoa East yesterday, with torrential rain pouring through gaping holes where hundreds of tiles were ripped off roofs.
Damage estimated at tens of thousands of dollars was caused when the twister coming in off the sea touched down on Papamoa Beach Rd, sending a trampoline flying over a fence and hitting a neighbour's house.
Elsewhere in town, the heavy rain caused surface flooding, sparking 19 calls to the Tauranga City Council. Four calls were from people wanting sandbags, with most concern centred on the low-lying section of Papamoa's Dickson Rd where the water lapped front gates. Council communications manager Frank Begley said 50mm to 60mm of rain fell between 8am and midday.
The twister struck at about 10.30am, with the first house to really feel the impact belonging to Wairakei Ave residents Kevin and Christine D'Lemos.
It flipped their hefty barbecue, lifted some tiles off the roof and brought in so much rain that their gutters failed to cope and overflowed back into the house, flooding a bedroom.
"It was so strong that the raindrops turned to spray. I was a bit gobsmacked. It was the first time I had seen anything like that," Mr D'Lemos said.
Mrs D'Lemos said the worst of the storm lasted three or four minutes. "I started to get frightened. I remember thinking 'oh Lord let it calm down'."
The twister struck with so much force that a section of their strongly built front fence broke off like it was matchwood. It continued its devastating touch- and-go dance down Wairakei Ave, taking a roughly south-easterly direction until it caused some of the heaviest damage to two houses in Sarah Place.
Lee Hakaria was cooking brunch for his wife Marama and a houseful of children when it hit.
The rain grew more intense and suddenly there was a huge roar that hit with so much intensity that the ceiling lightbulb casings were sucked up and the bulbs dropped onto the floor. "It was an experience."
He looked outside and saw debris and rain all turning like they were in the eye of a twister. He then saw that the twister had lifted about a third of his roof tiles and the rain was pouring through.
Eventually the weight of the water started to crack the garage ceiling and he was forced to punch holes in the ceiling above the garage and other areas of the house to allow the water to drain away.
Neighbours Warren Bester and Toni Enslin were shopping when they received the bad news from Mr Bester's mother, Lynette, who was really scared by the crashing and the sight of outdoor bean bags flying away. They rushed home to see a gaping hole in the roof above the kitchen and lounge area.
"The whole ceiling will have to be replaced. Even some of the timbers holding the tiles were damaged," he said.
The two families were full of gratitude for the rapid response by the Papamoa and Mount Maunganui Fire Brigades, replacing tiles and using tarpaulins to plug the rest of the gap. Neighbours also rallied around to help them out.
Papamoa's chief fire officer Allan Bicker said it was the second mini tornado to hit the area in about 12 months.