Freak hail storm rocks BOP – Auckland, Nth Island also hit hard

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Wild weather wreaked havoc in the western Bay of Plenty and north of Auckland this afternoon with a mini tornado, giant hailstones, waterspouts and heavy rain causing floods and property damage.

Two thousand shoppers were evacuated from the Bayfair Shopping Centre in Mt Maunganui after a manhole collapsed sending floodwater into the building.

Roads were also flooded, causing severe traffic disruption in the Mt Maunganui town centre.

Several residents reported seeing waterspouts, funnel-shaped columns of water, which form when a whirlwind draws up a mass of water.

Mt Maunganui resident Wattie Newtown said he watched five waterspouts, one which lasted five to 10 minutes.

He said the winds that accompanied the spouts were horrendous, and the hailstorm that followed left the beach looking like it was coated in snow. The hailstones were 10 centimetres deep in places.

Mt Maunganui photographer Katherine Payne told NZPA she saw a waterspout coming in past Motiti Island towards the shore at Papamoa East.

"It was really mesmerising watching the wind spinning it round and round. It was heading inland so I didn't stand around too long to watch it.

"Most residents here are well aware of the tsunami risk. I work from home so I'd packed up my laptop to be on the safe side," Ms Payne said.

Firefighters in Mt Maunganui responded to a dozen calls over the over flooding, fallen trees and a damaged roof at Bayfair Shopping Centre.

Further north a mini tornado swept through Warkworth daganging half a dozen homes.

Former All Whites soccer player Sam Malcolmson said he saw trees and bushes bending over when the wind struck around 1.20pm.

The mini-tornado blew tiles off his roof, creating two holes, one which was a metre and a half wide.

Alistair Tolmie, manager at the Warkworth information centre, told NZPA there was a huge torrential downpour, and the sky was black and heavy.

Fire communications shift manager Steve Smith said fire crews were called out to one property in Warkworth to stabilise a roof.

Fire crews also attended wind and weather-related incidents in Whakatane and Ohope.

Weatherwatch.co.nz analyst Phillip Duncan said a band of active thunderstorms was moving towards the Whakatane and eastern Bay of Plenty region and another band of thunderstorms was moving from King Country to the Central Plateau.

Heavy thunderstorms were still possible over the next 24 hours.

He said the weather should ease as the system moves to the east.

- NZPA

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