Cantabrians blasted by yesterday's destructive tornado are "rolling up sleeves" and doing their own clean-up in classic Kiwi can-do style.

The tornado tore through small North Canterbury townships of Balcairn and then Amberley about 6pm during a 'supercell' storm.

It tore the roof off one house, damaged about 20 others, flattened trees, downed powerlines, and left a path of destruction where it landed in three places.

Amberley resident Donna Graham told Radio New Zealand the worst of the weather lasted less than a minute, but it left it her and her husband terrified.


"Out of these big, hanging, drapey-like black clouds was a small twister," she said.

"I got down on the floor by a cupboard. My husband is a really calm person but I could see that he was the same way."

"It did really worry us that people were hurt."

As well as the twister, the storm also brought thunderstorms, lightning and a large hailstorm. There were no reports of injuries.

Today, the locals are pitching in together for the clean-up job.

They're getting out their chainsaws and borrowing mates' diggers to get the job done, says Hurunui District Council's emergency management officer, Allan Grigg.

"There's a real rural community atmosphere going on here today," he said.

"People are out rolling their sleeves up getting stuck in. It's really impressive to see."

The tornado first touched down at Balcairn, 35km north of Christchurch, before it veered 15km north-east, and touched down twice, either side of Amberley.

It left "quite a trail of destruction" before it disappeared, Mr Grigg said.

Its path is an easy one for the local council's assessment team to follow today.

They are checking that residents are coping in the aftermath.

Severe weather and a reported mini-tornado caused extensive damage to property in North Canterbury last night.

So far, everyone "has things well in hand" with their insurance, and are being helped by friends and neighbours, Mr Grigg said.

Road crews are also helping with the clean-up, while local farmers are out checking crops.

Federated Farmers has received reports of some hail damage around Mid Canterbury, while Mr Grigg has today heard reports of maize and barley crops being damaged in North Canterbury.

After the short, but destructive front moved up the South Island yesterday, the weather is much more settled across the country today, except for the far south where severe gale north-westerlies are expected around Stewart Island and through Foveaux Strait.

"The general theme of the weather for this week is settled," said MetService meteorologist John Law said.

"We are not in for the same very high temperatures of last week, but there will still be some fine weather as high pressure builds across the country from the Tasman Sea.

"A brief southerly change forecast for the end of the week could bring some cooler temperatures for a time and we are likely to see the return of showers for parts of the North Island."

Latest computer model guidance and the outlook from the Fiji Meteorological Service shows there is a low to moderate potential for a tropical cyclone to form between Vanuatu and Fiji later in the week.

But given that that it hasn't even formed yet, Mr Law says it is too early to say whether it would have any impact on New Zealand.

Watch a WeatherWatch forecast for the week ahead here: