With questions being raised about whether forecasters were caught by surprise at the intensity of last night's weather, social media feeds show the speed with which the storm picked up pace, battering Auckland and taking down power lines.

On Twitter, the evening started out with warnings from Vector, Niwa, the MetService and WeatherWatch about 6.30pm saying temperatures would be low and wind gusts would be strong.

Several hours later, a flurry of tweets showed winds were hammering homes and had reached speeds of more than 100km/h.

The fire service tweeted at 9.51pm they were being "inundated with 111 calls", shortly after NIWA said gusts of 133km/h had been recorded on the Harbour Bridge.

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Live: Auckland assesses the damage: Trees down, 140km/h winds and thousands without power

Phone lines are down on Woodside Road, Massy after a powerful storm hit most of the country last night. Photo / Dean Purcell.
Phone lines are down on Woodside Road, Massy after a powerful storm hit most of the country last night. Photo / Dean Purcell.

Shortly before 11pm, Vector energy tweeted about widespread outages, six hours after a tweet warning Aucklanders downed lines were likely.

This morning Weather Watch's Philip Duncan was scratching his head over the storm's fierce battering, which seemingly few people expected to have the force of a Category 2 cyclone.

"I am going to be asking lots of questions today about what we could have done better, because we didn't see that there would be lots of trees down and half the city without power this morning," WeatherWatch.co.nz head forecaster Philip Duncan said.

"It was a notch higher than what we were expecting," he said.

But New Zealand's official weather warning outlet Metservice said it stood by its watches and said it couldn't have done anything more to warn New Zealanders.

"We had weather warnings out for a considerable period of time and before it was a warning, it was in the severe weather outlook," MetService meteorologist Tom Adams said.

"We had social media, press releases and radio interviews, so every base was covered.

"Apart from going around knocking door to door, there is not much more we could have done."

See the storm's progression via Twitter below: