Roof 'peeled off like a banana' in storm

By Andrew Koubaridis

Sheryl Cook is dwarfed by trees the storm ripped from the ground in Rotorua yesterday. Photo / Stephen Parker
Sheryl Cook is dwarfed by trees the storm ripped from the ground in Rotorua yesterday. Photo / Stephen Parker

Severe rain and wind battered the North Island for a second day yesterday, with powerlines downed, trees uprooted - and one family running from their home in terror as the roof was torn away.

Lyndon Watts, 52, his wife, Noki, 47, and their two teenage sons were about to have breakfast when a roaring wind hit the home in Paraite Rd, in Bell Block, Taranaki, causing it to "peel off like you're peeling a banana".

The family had no time to gather clothes and ran for their lives to take cover in vehicles outside. They have not been allowed back because police and firefighters say it is too dangerous while the winds are still high.

"If it rains it will soak everything - we're going to have nothing if it rains. The fire brigade cannot get up on the roof, they say it's too dangerous."

The wild weather is expected to continue into today with another bout of torrential rain forecast to hit Northland with severe gales starting in Auckland and spreading throughout the rest of the North Island.

Last night, Mr Watts and his family were sheltering at a neighbour's home, but feared they would lose all their possessions that were open to the elements with the roof gone.

Pink Batts were strewn through trees and a large piece of tin was embedded in a tree as if it had been "cut with a knife".

The roof came off with a deafening crack.

"It's a nightmare, mate. It's the scariest thing I've gone through, I'm still shaken up," said Mr Watts.

He said his boys, Thomas, 13 and Sean, 14, had nothing and the family had no insurance. "We've got no home now, [it's] gone ... If it rains the furniture isn't going to be worth anything."

Despite that he said he felt lucky.

"I thought it was a small tornado ...

"If it was down a little bit lower we could have been in serious trouble."

If the roof had not been torn completely off it could have crashed through the lounge and bedrooms, he said.

The winds gusts reached 120km/h throughout the central and lower North Island and caused disruption throughout the day. The storm cut off Gisborne with almost all routes in and out of the district blocked by slips, trees or flooding for a couple of hours.

In flood-hit Northland, heavy rain and strong winds eased after Monday's storm dumped more than two months' worth of rain on some parts of the region.

WeatherWatch forecasters said another period of torrential rain and gale-force winds was expected today.

"This new low is rich in tropical moisture and brings yet again the threat for flooding, and this time flash flooding may also be an issue," Philip Duncan said.

"The ground is already saturated and the rain band that's coming down may be faster moving but it also contains much heavier bands of rain."

A few hours of torrential rain could lead to rapidly rising rivers and streams, he warned.

However, while Monday's downpour lasted 24 hours, this downpour would be "shorter and sharper" and expected to last only six hours.

MetService has issued a severe weather warning for much of the North Island.

Heavy rain was expected for Gisborne, Hawkes Bay and Wairarapa last night but severe southeast gales were expected to ease in Taranaki, Taupo and the central North Island high country, Wellington and Horowhenua Kapiti Coast, MetService said.

Mr Duncan said today's expected severe gales would build quickly in northeast Auckland and Northland, and then head south across Coromandel, Bay of Plenty, Waikato, the Central Plateau and Taranaki.

- Additional reporting: APNZ

- NZ Herald

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