Picking up the pieces after twister terror

The Auckland tornado killed three, injured more and left hundreds homeless. Andrew Koubaridis spoke to some of those beginning the long process of rebuilding their lives.

Devastation on Wallingford Way, Hobsonville, after the tornado. Photo / Chris Gorman
Devastation on Wallingford Way, Hobsonville, after the tornado. Photo / Chris Gorman

Stuck in the storm

Jesse Hirst, 21, had planned to celebrate his partner's graduation on Thursday night. Instead he was locked out of his Hobsonville home by a police cordon set up after the tornado.

A friend phoned him with news of the tornado and he raced home from work. "I ran through the cop block, they said no, but I just went. I got down there and my tree's down in the front yard and half it went through the neighbour's kitchen."

Roof tiles had also been torn off and a large hole in the roof - like almost every home in the area - had allowed water to flood the house. While he could understand the authorities' reluctance to allow residents back into damaged streets until they could be made safe, it was still frustrating.

"They let me in yesterday while there was live power lines down on the lawn so I could get stuff and they were fine with me going in then - but now it's all safe they can't let me back in."

However, Mr Hirst was worried about security in the abandoned streets so was pleased with the strong security in that regard. "For all they know I'm a looter ... We got told there would be lots of security and we came down last night to check on the security and the patrols and there were a couple of cops on each street so I was pretty happy with that."

Like most people in the Hobsonville community yesterday, Mr Hirst was relieved to be uninjured and alive, after three workers were killed at the Hobsonville school site.

"I was thinking if the tornado had happened the day before I was sitting in my car in the exact same spot the tree came down in. So it makes you think."

'You just have to cope'

Ian Jamieson expected to find his trampoline in his backyard, not in a tree down the road.

But the tornado that wreaked havoc throughout Whenuapai and Hobsonville turned everything in his own backyard upside down - firing the trampoline away, bowling fences, and completely destroying his shed.

"If you look at where it's come from it's almost followed a path ... But I reckon it's bounced back," he said, referring to the selective nature of the damage which even spared the mulch next to the shed now barely standing.

The tornado narrowly missed his Puriri Rd home - only a piece of spouting was torn off - which was something to be grateful for. He heard from his neighbour what happened but still didn't believe it until he saw the extent for himself.

As well as his missing trampoline that was found lodged in a tree, another tree crashed into a neighbour's home but somehow a two-storey home on the next property emerged unscathed.

But he was philosophical given the damage to other people's homes, many of whom have lost everything.

"You just have to cope with it really don't you."

New home to no home

He had only just moved his family into their Wallingford Way home and they were planning on being there for some time.

But Troy Gold is now unsure what the future holds. His rented home may be unsalvageable after bearing the brunt of the tornado fury on Thursday.

The windows blew open, jagged glass scattering throughout the home and the yard, a hole in the wall facing the road after an object became embedded in it, while the chimney looks like it's hanging by a thread, as do pieces of the house.

The damage gives the impression of an explosion, especially as contents of the living room have been thrown around like there had been a blast.

The shed is even worse, missing its roof and doors. Twisted pieces of iron are lying throughout the property while debris from other homes - no one is sure exactly where - and a number of empty fish tanks that were sitting next to the house have left lumps of glass shards on the driveway.

It was almost too much for Mr Gold's partner who cried out when she first saw the full extent of the damage.

He said it was hard to comprehend and he was almost speechless to describe how he was feeling. "I'm gutted. It's just unbelievable really."

A better view

When the fierce winds had died down, Andrew Randell noticed a slight improvement on his Puriri Rd property.

Some trees had been torn that meant he could "now see right through to Coatesville. So every cloud has a silver lining," he said with a smile.

It was a rare bright note though. His home, currently under renovation, lost part of its roof with water damage spread throughout the house.

Mr Randell told the Herald he didn't know how long it would take to get the house back the way it had been before the tornado.

"It might speed things up [the renovations], I don't know. It will all depend on insurance I think, and a couple of weeks before Christmas I don't know what it will be like."

When he arrived at his home he found part of the roof scattered around the front yard and was joined by a mate to put a tarpaulin over the gaping hole. The community helping each other was a feature of yesterday's recovery efforts.

"Everyone has been pitching in and helping each other. Last night we walked up the road to see what there is we can do to help."

Tears in rain

Hobsonville Combined Bowling Club greens keeper Wally Annett fought back tears as he assessed the damage.

"It's 20 years of work here," he said. "This will be unplayable for several months."

The tornado ripped up "tonnes" of artificial grass, blew over fences and hurled wood and sheets of corrugated iron on to the green, pitting the expensive surface with dozens of holes. The grounds were also drenched.

"It'll be $100,000 damage I reckon."

On the positive side, no one was at the bowling green when the tornado suddenly struck.

- NZ Herald

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