After the shock of losing their homes to the tornado, hundreds of storm refugees filtered in to the shelter at Whenuapai Air Base.

But as conditions outside improved, many decided to try their luck elsewhere, and only a few of the estimated 250 people affected remained at the base.

Paul Barrett's young children jumped on large leather couches as he waited to find out where his family would sleep for the night.

The air force flight lieutenant had spent hours helping those evacuated from their Hobsonville homes before arriving at RNZAF base, where he and his family joined the homeless.


There was external damage to the Barrett family's home.

"Ours is superficial compared to others," Flight Lieutenant Barrett said.

After rushing to Hobsonville to check on his daughter at daycare during the peak of the storm, Flight Lieutenant Barrett eventually became part of the team helping relocate those being evacuated.

In the officers' mess at the base, his wife and children ate before they made their way to the city, where the Red Cross had organised a hotel for them.

"We've got somewhere to sleep, which is awesome. That response was really quick," Flight Lieutenant Barrett said.

Matt Eade and Kaitlen Jones, however, were among the few still waiting last night to see if they could leave for somewhere safe.

They were resting in the officers' mess, recovering from their experience hours earlier at their home in Clark Rd, Hobsonville.

"It's probably the hardest wind you've ever seen in one direction and then suddenly it stops and goes in the other direction," Mr Eade said.


Said Ms Jones: "The cops were saying, 'Everyone take cover, another tornado is coming', stuff like that."