A twister touched down in an Owhata subdivision, throwing tree branches over houses, turning over trampolines and carrying a wheelie bin more than 150m down the street.

Eyewitnesses have said they twister sounded like "a roar, like a train" and was "scary".

Neil McIntyre was sitting in his Moana Views home about 5.15pm yesterday when he heard a loud roar and hail hitting his neighbour's tin roof.

"I went outside and saw the spa pool cover starting to lift. Branches off our big silk tree out the front started taking off over the neighbour's house and landed in their front yard."

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Mr McIntyre said the whole event lasted only about 15-20 seconds but was "pretty scary".

"I've seen nothing like it. It was an incredible noise, a roar, like a train. "

Mr McIntyre said his neighbour found his wheelie bin down the street.

"It must have been 150m, easy, down the road when he found it. And it had been completely emptied."

A video showing what looks like the twister forming over Te Ngae Rd was also sent to the Rotorua Daily Post by a Facebook reader as well as a photo of a upturned trampoline from a Duggan Dr resident.

Owhata resident Rebecca Heart said it looked like a large gust of wind blowing leaves across the garden before it started throwing furniture around.

"It picked up the dog kennel and blew the table off the deck," she said.

"Then it threw our trampoline up on the fence before throwing it back into the garden."

Mrs Heart said her sister had lived at the property for four years without ever experiencing anything like it.

"It was kind of scary," she said.

"Just very unusual. Especially considering we'd all prepared for a big cyclone, and then the moment we relaxed this happened."

What causes a tornado to form?
- When different temperatures and humidity meet.
- Generally, warm air rises, but when the two fronts meet, the cold air can trap the warm air beneath it. Because the warm air cannot move upward, it begins to rotate.
- The spinning air may remain unseen until it picks up enough dust and debris for its shape to be visible.

What to do if a tornado hits
- Never try to outrun a tornado. Instead, find a safe place to ride it out.
- Watch for flying debris, which causes the most fatalities and injuries while the tornado is in process.
- If a tornado strikes and you are inside a sturdy building, go to the lowest floor, such as the basement or storm cellar.
- If the building has no rooms beneath the ground, get to the lowest level possible and find an interior room, putting as many walls as possible between you and the tornado.
Source: Live Science