Rough weather, lightning, and reports of a tornado caused extensive damage in North Canterbury last night.
Fire service shift manager Andrew Norris said a "cluster of houses" in Amberley, 50km north of Christchurch, had been badly damaged about 6.30pm.
Southern fire communications shift manager Karl Patterson said the strong winds lifted tiles off roofs near the Burnham Military Camp area and three houses in Amberley, 50km north of Christchurch, were also affected.
"One house completely lost its roof. Another house had extensive roof damage [and] windows blown in."
The weather also caused power pole fires and trees to be knocked down," Mr Patterson said.
"Apparently a tornado of some description sort of went through just near the coast - it caused a little bit of damage, but we did a check of all the houses in the area and they were ok.
"We had a couple of fires started by lightning, we had a fire in Halswell Quarry, out the south-west side of town.
"Also, in Little River we had a tree catch on fire in the middle of a tree plantation of some description."
There were no reports of injuries, Mr Patterson said.
Amberley resident Donna Graham told Radio New Zealand the worst of the weather lasted less than a minute, but it left it her and her husband terrified.
"Out of these big, hanging, drapey like black clouds was a small twister. I went outside to tell my husband, 'I think one's forming' and when I came back in it was this massive thing coming straight towards us and then it spun along sideways and we just saw the black stuff flicking up underneath it.
"We were recording it on our camera and taking photos and I was on the phone to my friend until I realised it was coming straight towards our house."
Ms Graham said she and her husband then made a bolt for their washhouse.
"I got down on the floor by a cupboard. My husband is a really calm person but I could see that he was the same way."
Massive hail balls had pelted the house and when the noise subsided they were greeted by a scene of debris and disarray.
"It did really worry us that people were hurt ... I was between the washing machine and the cupboard and I was just thinking, what would we do if the house [didn't hold up].
"But my friend on the phone was saying 'don't go outside, that's worse', then I had my fingers in my ears and the phone went dead and that was very hard on them at the other end. They didn't know what had happened."
It was the worst weather she had experienced in her 20 years living in Amberley, Ms Graham said. "I just hope that it never happens again."