A 9-year-old girl was pulled her from her bedroom by her parents seconds before lightning split a huge tree outside sending a branch smashing through her window.

Shaken by the near miss, the Te Puke family went outside to find their dog dead, believed to have been electrocuted by a lightning strike.

Much of the North Island was doused with rain yesterday causing flooding throughout Rotorua and the Coromandel. A state of emergency was declared in Ngongotaha after a stream burst its banks.

Matt Petuha in front of his family's rented Te Puke home surrounded by the remains of a tree struck by lightning. Photo / Andrew Warner
Matt Petuha in front of his family's rented Te Puke home surrounded by the remains of a tree struck by lightning. Photo / Andrew Warner

Matt and Nicole Petuha and their youngest daughter, Isobel, 9, were asleep in their rented home in rural Te Puke yesterday when they were woken by a huge boom of thunder between 4.30am and 5am.

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"It shook the whole house and woke us up," Matt Petuha said.

They went to check on Isobel and brought her into their room.

A minute later they heard "Kaboom!" Petuha said.

Lightning had struck the huge redwood tree in their front yard, splitting all but the last few metres of the trunk down the middle, he said.

The two trunk halves fell on either side of the house, but a branch crashed through the roof of a small lean-to attached to the house and broke Isobel's window.

It sent a shower of glass and wood over the bed the little girl had occupied a minute earlier.

A detached shed was also badly damaged after taking a direct hit from the falling trunk, but the family's cars parked nearby were spared.

Matt Petuha in front of his family's rented Te Puke home surrounded by the remains of a tree struck by lightning. Photo / Andrew Warner
Matt Petuha in front of his family's rented Te Puke home surrounded by the remains of a tree struck by lightning. Photo / Andrew Warner

The family smelled burning and, worried the home's fried electrical system could spark a fire, called 111 about 5am but firefighters gave the all clear.

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The dog's death was "devastating for the family", Te Puke firefighter Tupaea Rolleston said.

Petuha said his 2-and-a-half-year-old dog, Rocky, had been in a kennel beside the shed when the lightning hit.

"I think it was the electric shock from the lightning . . . "

Surveying the aftermath yesterday afternoon, he said he could not believe the tree - which he and neighbours described as a "landmark" - had not fallen on top of the house.

"I've been looking at all of this and trying to work out the physics of it. How did it not take out the house? It fell all around it."

Next-door-neighbour Rachel Jeffery said it was a "miracle it went the way it did".

The storm woke her family about 4.45am.

"The whole house shook every time it boomed. We had paintings fall off the wall."

Petuha said his family had been "inundated" with offers of help from friends and colleagues in the storm's wake, for which they were very grateful.

There was a two-bedroom bach on the property the family had been able to move into while their home was assessed by insurers and repaired.

"But a little bit later on, if anyone wants some firewood ..."

Consistent heavy rain across the Western Bay yesterday flooded roads and fields, swelling rivers and streams, marooning stock and a clubhouse in Tauriko, creating a gushing cascade in the hills near Pongakawa and bringing a bank down on Belk Rd.

Early morning lightning strikes set off false fire alarms in commercial buildings around Tauranga and in the afternoon one took out a set of traffic lights in Mount Maunganui.


Weather - by the numbers

- 230 - lightning strikes in the Bay of Plenty overnight on Sunday
- 50 - lightning strikes in Coromandel
- 21mm - Peak rainfall in Tauranga between 4am and 5am
- 72mm - Rainfall accumulated in Tauranga in the 24hrs to 5pm
- 45mm - Rainfall in Tauranga on Sunday to 5pm
- 120mm - Rainfall accumulated in Kaimai Range in 24hrs to 5pm

- Source: MetService