Stunning video has captured the moment lightning struck an object in Auckland's Waitemata Harbour, illuminating drivers on the Harbour Bridge in blinding white light.

MetService said around 25 lightning strikes were recorded over land in the Auckland region on Monday night, as sheet lightning repeatedly lit up the Auckland sky, accompanied by claps of thunder.

The spectacular light show was seen as fierce storms caused damage across the city, including a tornado-like waterspout that ripped through central Auckland's waterfront, toppling at least one shipping container and wreaking havoc on yachts, ships and cars.

Vehicles were swept into the ocean and a yacht was struck by lightning as the storm left a trail of destruction.

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A shipping container toppled on to a car at Jellicoe Wharf near Tinley St, trapping the driver. They were tended to by emergency services and taken to hospital in a moderate condition.

Coastguard duty officer Hemi Manaena said the winds had caused "significant damage" to a large number of recreational vessels at Westhaven.

The Sealink Ferry also lost its mooring at Wynyard Quarter and needed to be retrieved.

"We'd like to reiterate that there's a large amount of debris in the harbour," said Manaena.

"Mariners should remain vigilant when navigating the area, especially around the Princes/ Hobson Wharf area - a shipping container has fallen into the water there."

Lighting was also seen across the country, as seen in this photo of lightning striking in the South Waikato. Photo / Kate Mariano
Lighting was also seen across the country, as seen in this photo of lightning striking in the South Waikato. Photo / Kate Mariano

The most rain fell in West Auckland, with a record of 9.5mm in an hour, while the strongest wind gusts were in Manukau which had one gust of 89km/h.

Auckland may feel some reprieve today with the weather trough expected to move away to the east.

Today's forecast

Whangārei:

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A few showers, mainly from afternoon. Westerlies, strong at times. High 16C / Low 10C.

Auckland: A few showers, chance of a thunderstorm this evening. Southwesterlies, strong at times. High 15C / Low 10C.

Tauranga: Fine spells and a few showers from afternoon. Westerlies. High 15C / Low 9C.

Hamilton: A few showers, more frequent from afternoon. Westerlies. High 14C / Low 8C.

New Plymouth: Fine spells and a few showers, mainly from evening with the chance of a thunderstorm. Westerlies, strengthening. High 13C / Low 10C.

Napier: Fine, but chance shower late afternoon. Northwesterlies. High 17C / Low 7C.

Wellington: A sunny day. Northwesterlies, changing southerly overnight. High 13C / Low 6C.

Nelson: Fine. Southwesterlies. High 13C / Low 6C.

Christchurch: Fine. Cloud increasing this evening as northwest breezes change to brisk, cold southwesterly. High 14C / Low 2C.

Dunedin: Fine at first. A few showers developing afternoon as northwesterlies turn strong, cold southwest. Snow to 300 metres. High 11C / Low 4C.