"I've never seen anything so scary. To see it all happening right in front of your eyes like that ... You didn't know what you were driving over."

Mount Maunganui resident Samantha Savory, 25, and her partner Barry Watson, 30, were on their way to pick up Miss Savory's newly repaired car when the tornado hit.

They were on Maunganui Rd near Links Ave Reserve when things started flying through the air around them. "We were just driving along and there was a massive flash of lightening and all the lights went off. I looked up and saw some things flying through the air. I realised it was massive sheets of iron."

In front of them they saw posts and trees landing on the road.

Advertisement

The car ahead of them crashed into a tree, which landed right in front of them.

"It wasn't just a branch. It looked like a full tree," Miss Savory said. "There was quite a lot of water as well, which probably added to the drama."

The car ahead did not appear badly damaged, as traffic was going "super slow". "It wasn't that windy. I didn't realise it was a tornado. We must not have been in the wind area. We started seeing all the stuff in the sky and it took me a while to realise."

People slowed down and some started pulling over, not sure where to go. "We thought: it's too dangerous to stay here. We need to get out of here."

The couple arrived at the Noel Leeming carpark only to find the right side of Miss Savory's car had been dented and scratched badly by large pieces of iron that had blown off the roof of a business in Owens Place.

The tyres had also been slashed by the iron.

"Someone drove into it last week so it had just been repaired [on Thursday]," she said.

She moved the car to a more protected part of the car park and left it there for the night. The repairs would cost more than $1000 but insurance would cover the bill, she said.

Advertisement

The rail-crossing barrier arms on Matapihi Rd were malfunctioning so someone lifted them up to allow cars to go through.

"It was quite surreal. When I realised what was happening, that was scary. Everyone was like 'we need to get out of the area', when you see massive posts lying on cars and buildings."