Belinda Feek is a NZ Herald reporter

Tornado damages homes in Ohope, Bay of Plenty

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The remains of Jocelyn and Doug Batchelor's garage after a tornado ripped through early yesterday. Photo / Jocelyn Batchelor
The remains of Jocelyn and Doug Batchelor's garage after a tornado ripped through early yesterday. Photo / Jocelyn Batchelor

Ohope resident Mary Transom was in her kitchen preparing breakfast when she heard "a tremendous bang".

"I was standing facing the window and there was this tremendous bang and we thought something had hit the house."

Shortly after she discovered that a mini tornado had carved a narrow path through the small beachside township yesterday, after earlier touching down in Katikati to the north.

Trees were uprooted, roofs lifted, windows smashed and tiles tossed like frisbees.

She said the neighbour's trampoline was thrown in the air.

"It hit our fence and our trees and slowly slid down again and our trees just did like a 360 [degree spin]. The wind was so strong. We've got youngish trees, which are fairly tall and I thought 'they're going', A tree out the front did blow right out of its ground and our neighbour's tree, a big banksia about 20-odd years old, just snapped in half."

Transom said she lost tiles off her roof.

But just as quick as it arrived, it left again, she said.

The Ohope Fire Brigade also attended a few calls and uploaded a few photos to its Facebook page.

Damage at an Ohope Beach property.  Photo/Ohope Volunteer Fire Brigade
Damage at an Ohope Beach property. Photo/Ohope Volunteer Fire Brigade

Transom's house is included in the photo, along with her neighbour's two-storey white house, which she said had several windows smashed.

It was also rubbish day so rubbish and tipped and squashed wheelie bins were strewn across the street.

"There was a lot of damage over properties and fences ripped straight out of the ground."

She thanked the local fire brigade for helping fix her roof and was this morning waiting for an insurance assessor and tiler to arrive to inspect and fix the roof.

A predicted path of the torando.  Photo/Ohope Volunteer Fire Brigade
A predicted path of the torando. Photo/Ohope Volunteer Fire Brigade

Other people on the brigade's Facebook page have described the wind as "incredible" and "loud", "like a low-flying plane".

A short time earlier, further north in Katikati, Jocelyn Batchelor and husband, Doug, were still in bed listening to the rain pelt the roof of their Lancaster Rd house.

Next thing they heard a noise so loud, Jocelyn Batchelor can't describe it.

"I was just lying in bed thinking it's actually quite nice listening to the rain on the roof, and then it hit. The windows upstairs in our bedroom were going in and out, I thought they were going to pop."

She said the "intense noise" didn't last too long and they had no idea they had been affected until they looked out their window.

Were you affected? Send us your pictures

"We thought 'what's at the back of the shed?' and of course it was everything that had been in the shed because the roller doors came off and they just went right through the shed and took the back of the shed out; everything pushed through to the back."

The tornado carved a path so narrow it missed stacks of beehives sitting about 10m away from their boat, which was picked up and dumped about 200m across the river.

"Our bedroom doesn't have curtains and we were watching stuff flying through the air and we were thinking they're just branches because there were quite a few trees down. We have one evergreen magnolia and it's taken the top right out of it. And one big tree was flattened."

As for what was going through her mind as she lay helpless in bed, Batchelor said she just hoped for the best.

"I just lay there and hoped that the wind would just stop. I hate the wind. You know that you can't do anything and that you're just stuck."

Northern fire communications shift manager Colin Underdown said the service received several calls to Katikati about a number of trees across the road or on power lines.

The Ohope callouts appeared to mostly related to tiles lifting off roofs.

The tornado accompanied heavy rain for most of the Bay of Plenty and Rotorua yesterday. Surface flooding was reported in some areas.

The weather should be more settled today. Fine spells and the odd shower are forecast for the region.

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