A family who fled Christchurch after the first big earthquake took the brunt of a tornado that hit the Auckland suburb of Avondale yesterday.

Mark Hackett was at work in the kitchen at the Sky Tower when his neighbour rang and told him his home in Canal St had been affected by the tornado just after 1pm.

He told the Herald he rushed home to find the roof torn off the shed and slammed into the back of the house.

Mr Hackett said he was happy his wife Kirstyn and their children weren't at home when it hit.


"If there's an opportune time for a tornado to hit a house I guess it's when there's no one home.

"The family weren't home, that's the main thing."

They left Christchurch late last year after their home was damaged in the September earthquake and the aftershocks.

They were in Auckland before the February earthquake caused more damage.

"I thought we were getting away from natural disasters. We came here to escape them," he said.

Mr Hackett said they moved in because it was an "idyllic little street and then this happens", but they would not move.

"It's a one in a million thing [but] we'll see how the kids react."

His children had been traumatised by the earthquakes, he said.


The localised nature of the tornado was evident in the Hacketts' backyard, where a lemon tree appeared to have lost no fruit but a tree close by had lost branches.

Sheets of corrugated iron from the shed were strewn around the street and were visible in trees.

At least 13 properties were damaged when the tornado ripped through Avondale and Te Atatu South at about 1pm. The Fire Service said its path was about 1km wide.

Witnesses reported a "roaring" noise accompanied by heavy rain and swirling winds that picked up anything not fastened down.

Tiles lifted from roofs and powerlines fell on to driveways, ripping branches from trees.

The worst hit streets were Canal Rd, Wairau Ave and Riversdale Rd where the intensity of the wind knocked fences over and blew trampolines across yards.

At least one house was struck by lightning in Ash St and a small number of homes lost power.

Some homes in Jaemont Ave, Te Atatu South, also had roof damage.

A Fire Service incident command unit was set up at the intersection of Wairau Ave and Ash St.

Roads were closed while firefighters cleared debris from the streets and secured damaged roofs.

Bhavin Dhankee saw the swirling winds and heard tiles from his roof fly off on Wairau Ave.

He said lightning hit powerlines and left the cables "smoking".

Michael To'o was at a friend's place at Riversdale Rd when he saw the tornado rushing towards him.

"I saw a huge gust of wind rip up the street. Rubbish bins were flying up the road.

"I had a look around [and] there's a couple of houses with tile damage and there's powerlines down which they're just fixing up."

Fire Service northern communications shift manager Jaron Phillips said it was fortunate no one was seriously hurt in the twister.

"You had corrugated iron that was being blown around, sheets of roofing iron that had been lifted off and were being blown around, a garage door had been lifted and removed.

"Any of those moving objects or debris could have been dangerous."

Mr Phillips said it appeared the tornado had started in Avondale and moved northwest across an estuary to Te Atatu South.

- additional reporting: Corrie Taylor, APNZ