Tornado, power cuts hit Buller

By Lee Scanlon

Buller Electricity linemen repair power lines felled when lightning blasted a nearby white pine on Stafford Street. Photo / Lee Scanlon
Buller Electricity linemen repair power lines felled when lightning blasted a nearby white pine on Stafford Street. Photo / Lee Scanlon

Buller suffered a mini-tornado, lightning strikes and power cuts this morning as thundery squalls swept through the district.

A tornado hit a Utopia Road home, a few kilometres north of Westport, just before dawn, tossing a trampoline, blowing out windows and ripping off a verandah roof.

Neville and Carol Hawes were still in bed when the twister struck during a squall about 6.30am.

"It whipped up the trampoline ...and smashed a few windows and broke the water pump..." Mr Hawes said.

"Some stuff was blown one way and some stuff has gone the other [way]."

The verandah roof had blown off and the house had lost about eight windows.

"The trampoline broke a couple on one side but once the wind got in it blew the others out the other side."

The house, which was insured, was a mess inside, Mr Hawes said.

"The wind came right in. There's broken vases and picture frames and everything blown over."

The lounge door had been ripped off its hinges.

A carpenter by trade, Mr Hawes was this morning trying to water-proof their home as more thunderstorms rolled through.

"There's water everywhere at the moment," he said.

Utopia Road is susceptible to tornadoes coming in off the sea.

"We've had probably about four or five through here but there's never been much damage...this one has just come right through the house."

The couple declined to have the damage photographed for The News.

The MetService weather station at Westport Airport recorded an 111km/h wind gust around the same time the tornado hit several kilometres away. The highest wind gust nationwide this morning was 140km/h at Stephens Island in the Marlborough Sounds.

The wild weather cut power to about 1300 consumers in Westport and northern Buller, said Buller Electricity operations manager Alan Hawes.

Lightning blasted a white pine tree, which fell onto power lines in Westport's Stafford Street, about 5.30am, cutting power to consumers in the Stafford Street, Excelsior Road and Nine Mile Road areas. Power was restored to the Nine Mile about 8am and elsewhere at 11am, Mr Hawes said.

About 5.45am high winds threw blue gum tree branches onto lines on the Fairdown Straight, cutting power to northern Buller. Most areas regained power by 10.30am, with Karamea initially being serviced by generators.

Little Wanganui and Wangapeka lost power around 9.30am, apparently from a lightning strike. Linesmen were still working on restoring power there late this morning, Mr Hawes said.

- Westport News

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