Matthew Theunissen

Matthew Theunissen is a reporter for the Herald on Sunday.

Close call for driver in Auckland storm

When branches came through her open driver's window Emma Gates slammed on her brakes, stopped in the middle of the road and crouched under her steering wheel.

An iron shed spiralled through the air past her car and the 25-year-old knew she had to get out of there.

She put her car into reverse to get off Wairoa Rd, but when she looked back she saw a tree had gone through her back window.

Ms Gates was driving home from her caregiver job in Devonport. She decided to have a cigarette and rolled down the window.

Looking back, she said she was lucky she did this because when branches came flying at her, they could have shattered the glass on to her face.

"All of a sudden leaves and branches started hitting my face. I braked hard then crouched under my steering wheel and covered my head. I heard lots of banging.

"Then I saw a corrugated iron shed and fences spin through the air and reversed out of there, that's when I saw the tree through my back window."

Ms Gates said the ordeal was over very quickly - but considering that, the wind did a lot of damage.

At the North Shore Croquet Club in Wairoa Rd, sheds were ripped from the ground and flung on to the pavement, fences were pummelled and tree limbs were tossed on to the greens.

Committee member Ruth Castle, who lives in nearby Ascot Ave, wandered around the grounds in shock.

The fence of her home was also knocked down.

"It just came so suddenly and it's just taken everything with it ... sheds, trees, everything. There used to be a huge cedar just here.

"I just really can't believe it."

Derby St resident Sue Story said the winds were preceded by thunder, strong wind and heavy rain.

"I'd been out on the deck moving plants because the rain was thundering down. I looked out and saw ... what looked like three or four pieces of white cloth just being swirled around, but I didn't even give it a thought.

"I thought 'I'm dreaming, I'm seeing things, I need to go and lie down'. But it must have been a trampoline or a piece of roof or something being spun around in the tornado."

Other stunned residents converged near a police cordon in Wairoa Rd to see what was going on.

"We heard the wind coming through first. We heard this really loud whistling sound and then it came towards us but then veered off a bit," resident Paul Dalebroux said.

It pushed trampolines over and caused damage to numerous houses.

"It wasn't very big so it wasn't that scary," he said. But his daughter, Chantal, 12, disagreed: "Yes, it was. We were sheltering in the hinges of the bathroom door," she said.

Victoria Silvey, 12, was in her lounge when she saw timber, leaves and poles "floating in the air".

They were whirling around in a funnel that lasted about 30 seconds before leaving the area, she said.

Devonport-Takapuna Local Board chairman Chris Darby said after surveying the damage: "I would not want to have been in this.

"It's mayhem. Anybody would have lost their life or have been injured."

The shock of weather was also visible in other parts of Auckland. Ashley Selfe was driving in Manurewa after "being hit with a heavy downpour" when she saw a heavy rotation from a cloud that resembled the notorious tornado funnel.

"I was certain something was going to form, but sadly nothing happened. The storm itself seemed to be moving too fast south for any tornado to form. But most exciting to see."

The MetService said the risk of further damage was unlikely today, as the weather system was forecast to pass overnight, though there may be wind gusts in exposed places.

- NZ Herald

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