Three dead after Auckland storm and tornadoes

# Three people reported killed

# Damage reported across west Auckland and North Shore

# Tornado reported on Auckland motorway

# Severe surface flooding right across Auckland region

# Roads closed include SH 18, Wallingford Way and Greenhithe Rd in Hobsonville, Waimarie Rd in Whenuapai and Moselle Ave in Henderson.

# Military and Urban Search and Rescue called out to assist

# Public transport services affected

# Auckland Airport withdraw staff from tarmac

Three people have been killed after severe weather - including a series of tornadoes - hit Auckland this afternoon.

Police sources have confirmed that three have died in the west Auckland storm, which struck shortly after noon.

Fire services communications manager Peter Stevenson said two people had been killed when a slab of concrete fell onto a truck.

Andy Gummer of St John said at least seven people had been transported to Auckland and North Shore hospitals.

"There might be some critical,'' he said.

MetService has now lifted its severe weather warning for the Auckland area, but earlier a tornado hit Hobsonville, tearing down trees and ripping panels from the motorway.

Flooding of varying degrees is also still being reported and power lines are down in areas - making it difficult for emergency services to reach some houses.

Fire, police and ambulance raced to multiple callouts in Hobsonville and Upper Harbour.

Air Force personnel are going door to door in Hobsonville to check if people are safe.

Emergency services are trying to clear roads that are blocked by trees.

Police Superintendent Bill Searle said a series of tornadoes passed through Hobsonville, and one of those touched down on a subdivision, causing damage to trees and buildings.

He told a media conference at Whenuapai Air Base that about 12 uniformed USAR personnel, who happened to be in the area at the time are gathering intelligence to help police.

They have not been formally deployed.

The Defence Force is on standby, and an emergency centre has been set up at the air base.

Mr Searle said the forecast is for more bad weather in the area, and people in the Hobsonville and Greenhithe areas should stay inside for the next couple of hours.

The Fire Service has received between 80 and 100 calls and more than 12 appliances have been sent to the area.

Mr Searle said family members of those injured by the initial storm will be given access to parts of the construction site where the deaths were reported.

"We'd ask that people that don't have to be in the area stay away from the area,'' he said.

"Anybody approaching the area, if they could speak to police officers at the scene to make sure they are well directed.

"We're very keen to talk to the family members of anyone that might be injured.

"If they make themselves known to the police officers we'll give them the necessary care and attention.''

Roads closed, flights delayed after storm

State Highway 18, the motorway link between North Shore and West Auckland, was closed after the tornado destroyed noise walls and left some sections of road covered in debris.

The road will be shut indefinitely between Greenhithe Rd offramp and Brigham Creek onramp, NZTA reported.

Bus services have been suspended to Herald Island and Hobsonville Point and all bus services are delayed in west Auckland, Auckland Transport said.

Services to the eastern end of Wiseley Rd may be diverted, it said.

The 5:30pm Auckland to West Harbour ferry service will be replaced by buses.

NZTA State Highways manager Steve Mutton said it was unclear when SH18 would re-open.

"The priority is safety of drivers, the public and our field staff who maintain the motorway network. The motorway will remain shut until further notice.

He urged drivers to avoid the area.

Other roads and motorways through west Auckland would become congested because of the motorway closure, Mr Mutton said.

"We ask all people drive with patience and to consider whether their travel is necessary."

Waimarie Rd in Whenuapai and Moselle Ave in Henderson have also been closed due to storm damage and tornadoes, the Automobile Association said.

Auckland police are advising motorists to be mindful of flash flooding in and around the city.

"Most of all, motorists should be patient and expect journeys to take a little longer than usual this afternoon but, if you don't have to drive anywhere, don't," Inspector Gavin MacDonald said.

Police said motorists should drive to the conditions by slowing down, use headlights and increase following distances.

The powerful winds have disabled some SH18 network cameras, destroyed some motorway noise walls and left sections of the motorway covered with debris, said the Transport Agency (NZTA).

Auckland Airport has warned that a number of flights have been delayed and cancelled.

"The severe weather experienced in Auckland today has caused some disruption to air travel, particularly to some regional New Zealand destinations," said Auckland Airport communications manager Richard Llewellyn.

A number of flights to and from Whangarei and New Plymouth and have been cancelled and other flights had been delayed, he said.

People are being advised to contact their airline for information.

Severe weather warning lifted

MetService earlier issued a severe thunderstorm warning for central Auckland, the Thames Coromandel District, Manukau, the North Shore, Franklin and Rodney, although the severe weather warning for the Auckland area has now been lifted.

At 1.52pm MetService weather radar detected thunderstorms near Auckland, Orewa, Albany, the inner Hauraki Gulf, Daily Flat, Whangaparaoa and Silverdale.

The threat of further damaging winds moving across Auckland cannot be ruled out, MetService says.

Meteorologist Daniel Corbett said the heavy rain and wind would continue to batter the city over the next few hours

"A severe thunderstorm watch is in place until 6 o'clock this evening.''

"You can't completely rule out another small tornado,'' Mr Corbett said.
"Conditions are still favourable _ warm humid air [and] low-level winds converging.''

But heavy downpours and straight-line winds are more likely, he said.

Mr Corbett could not confirm there has been a tornado.

"We're not completely discounting it, because on the Doppler radar, which can actually see the wind, we are seeing good converging winds on the front, that's the whole reason why we've got the thunderstorms this afternoon.

"There's a strong northerly, which becomes a northwester right on the weather front, that's where you can get a 'twist' with converging winds, you can sometimes see in thunderstorms what we call 'spinning', or rotation - that may be what people have seen ... it may have been a funnel.

"We haven't had any visual evidence of anything touching the ground or a tornado. But, when on the weather front you have converging winds the conditions are favourable."

Damage reported across Auckland

A Fire Service spokesman said there appeared to be "significant building damage" and a number of people trapped.

Fire Service spokesperson Scott Osmond said there had been a number of callouts in West Auckland in the past couple of hours due to the wild weather.

A roof had caved in at Mastertrade on Moselle Avenue, Henderson, he said, while there were reports of chimneys being toppled and roofs blown off in Hobsonville.

Callers to Newstalk ZB said an apparent tornado had brought down lights on the Upper Harbour motorway near Wehnuapai and there were "dozens and dozens" of trees on the side of the road.

Whenuapai resident Suzanne McFadden said the tornado was like a roaring "juggernaut".

"We have no power, it honestly looks like a bomb has gone off in the street.

"I saw it coming across the river, the air went very electric and the sky went black. And then the wind started to whistle.

She said she saw trees coming up the street and then ran to the hallway inside for cover.

"We were in the middle of it. It was a roar. "

She said century-old pine trees had been uprooted, one even crashing through her neighbour's garage - crushing the van inside.

Waimarie Rd where she lives is littered with crushed cars, boats and fallen power lines, she said.

And because road access is blocked, residents are all concerned for the well-being of their children at the nearby Whenuapai School.

"We can't get out and nobody can get in, there are live power lines on the road. People who are getting home now are walking miles just to get home.

"This was like a juggernaut roaring through here. Everyone is really shaken up."

She said everyone had been checking on each other, going door to door to see if other residents were OK.

"We live in a little village and you just don't expect this kind of thing to happen."

Vector Energy has reported a power outage for the area of Hobsonville, with power not due to return until 2.30pm.

Looks like "a bombsite"

Meanwhile, another Newstalk ZB caller, Barney, has described it as scary weather.

"I've just got off at Point Chevalier just for fear of my life pretty much.

"Surface water is terrible and visibility is awful."

Newstalk ZB caller Tony, on Hobsonville Rd, said a friend on a nearby road described it as a "bombsite'', with five-storey trees down.

"The police are going door-knocking, making sure everyone's alright which is actually all good.''

Caller David said the weather on the motorway was "really bad''.

Local resident Jordan Carter said high winds had hit his house in Whenuapai.

The fence had been blown down, trees uprooted and the lid of the spa pool gone, he said.

- nzherald.co.nz, APNZ, NZ Herald staff

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