Storm leaves trail of destruction and it's not over yet

Trees have been torn up, a home struck by a tornado and a boat run aground on rocks as gale force winds wreak havoc across the North Island.

And while the worst is over MetService is warning it's not the end of the wild weather with more of the same forecast to strike this weekend.

With just a day of respite from the blustery winds, those heading back from school holidays on Friday will be hit by strong northerly winds which are predicted to ramp up Saturday to severe gales over much of New Zealand.

The Te Awamutu family's chimney was destroyed, breaking tiles on the roof. Photo / Supplied
The Te Awamutu family's chimney was destroyed, breaking tiles on the roof. Photo / Supplied

The rain is also expected to sweep up the country during Saturday and Sunday, the heaviest falls reserved for northern and western areas.

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Last night the Fire Service was kept busy throughout the Waikato and Auckland as winds of up to 128km/h barrelled through the regions.

Northern communications shift manager Daniel Nicholson said there were more than two dozen callouts as trees were uprooted, blocking roads and bringing down power lines.

The worst damage came when properties were struck by a tornado that tore through Te Awamutu around 8.30pm.

The Ritsema family scrambled to take cover in a small bathroom as the violent winds roared through their Laurie St home.

A tornado roared through Te Awamutu last night. Photo / Supplied
A tornado roared through Te Awamutu last night. Photo / Supplied

Daryl Ritsema said she and her husband Peter were sitting in the warmth of their lounge when their brightly burning fire started spewing smoke and embers into the room.

"There was a big noise like a freight train and the fire starting blowing out.

"It was worse than a freight train."

She yelled to her three adult children to run into the central bathroom where they nervously waited for the storm to pass.

She hastily grabbed clothes to put over her nightie and went outside to see a large kowhai tree in their front yard uprooted.

The boat broke its moorings near Westhaven Marina. Photo / Supplied via Olivia Watkins
The boat broke its moorings near Westhaven Marina. Photo / Supplied via Olivia Watkins

The chimney had also been destroyed, leaving a gaping hole in the roof.

The twister had also left a trail of damage in the neighbourhood, including lifting a garden shed over a house and dropping into a backyard.

A number of fences along the street had also been flattened.

But it appeared the Ritsema property had borne the brunt of the storm.

The Fire Service put a tarpaulin over the roof to prevent any further damage from overnight rain.

Earlier today, a strong wind warning was issued for motorists crossing the Auckland Harbour Bridge. Less than 50m away, a yacht broke free from its moorings and threatened to founder on rocks.

The Police Maritime Unit and Auckland Harbour Master raced to the unoccupied yacht "Mr Kamikaze" just before 8am as it threatened to run aground on rocks at Westhaven.

Bystanders helped authorities secure the yacht before being towed to a safe location.

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MetService said gusts measuring up to 100km/h were recorded in the city overnight, reaching 128km/h at Manukau Heads and the Hauraki Gulf.

Waves of squally showers swept over the island as the unrelenting westerly gales continued throughout the night.

This morning wind gusts of 72km/h were recorded on the Auckland Harbour Bridge.
The MetService said the gales were expected to ease across the North Island this morning.

A severe weather watch was now in place for southwesterly gales to hit southern New Zealand and Nelson later today.

- NZ Herald

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