Two men trapped on top of a tractor and their six dogs were rescued during last night's once-in-500-year storm which slammed Northland.

The two men were stuck on a tractor for three hours due to rising floodwaters near Kaitaia.

A farmer who was trapped on the tractor said he was "cold and pretty panicked".

Police notified the Far North Surf Rescue lifeguards just after midnight.

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When they arrived at the scene, club president Tony Walker said it was clear water rescue would be needed.

"The tractor was about 200 metres from the roadside and was nearly under the water, so it must have been about two to three metres deep."

Lifeguards found one man stranded on top of the tractor's roll cage, while the second was "on a rise about halfway back".

After assessing the scene, the decision was made to use an Inflatable Rescue Boat (IRB).

After the two lifeguards successfully rescued the two men off the tractor, a farmer asked lifeguards if the team could rescue his six dogs.

The farmer's six dogs were caged at his house not far from where they were stranded.

A second trip was made with the IRB and all six dogs were successfully rescued and reunited with their owner.

Walker spoke to the farmer today.

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"He was very grateful that no human or animal lives were lost."

Fire crews attended 212 emergency callouts as the storm dumped 220mm on Whangārei.

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Meteorologist Alwyn Bakker said the intense storm had been created by the unusual interaction between two low-pressure zones in a manner that caused a direct hit on Northland.

Severe thunderstorms hit Northland all day yesterday, but Whangārei was struck particularly hard.

Emergency services responded to more than 200 calls after flooded homes, people trapped in cars, a huge tornado and closed highways impacted the region.

Niwa reported 500-plus lightning strikes in Northland yesterday, and 125mm of rain in the Far North.

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Elsewhere, a video of a huge tornado out at sea was filmed near Tupou Bay in the Far North after midday.