It was a wild and electrifying night across the North Island last night.

The upper North Island saw about 10,000 lightning strikes through the night with Auckland alone clocking up 1300 strikes between midnight and 6am.

Metservice meteorologist Rob Kerr said it was a "pretty intense event".

"On our detectors we're looking at over 3500 strikes in two hour periods. It was running at a pretty high intensity, one of the highest we've seen."

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More than 2000 Auckland homes - including 1600 in Birkenhead - lost power during the severe weather, with trees collapsing on powerlines being the main cause of the trouble.
A handful of properties were without power this morning, Vector spokeswoman Sandy Hodge said.

The spectacular storm caused a tree to catch fire in Conifer Grove. Photo / Jarrod McCallum
The spectacular storm caused a tree to catch fire in Conifer Grove. Photo / Jarrod McCallum

The spectacular storm caused a tree to catch fire in Conifer Grove and, in Ellerslie, Jason Darrow woke up to find a palm tree had smashed through a fence into his garden.

Mr Darrow saw the tree lying across the fence this morning, and said it had "narrowly missed" the house next door.

The roof of one Albany home is understood to have caught fire in the blaze, causing extensive damage, but no one was injured.

Fire Service spokeswoman Dallas Ramsay said four crews were called to the Advance Way house after smoke was seen emitting from the roof just after midnight.

Strong wind gusts and heavy rainfall was also recorded in the "intense storm", Mr Kerr said.

Wind gusts reached 128km/h at Manukau Heads and about 96km/h at the Harbour Bridge, he said.

Parts of the Coromandel saw 34ml of rain in an hour overnight and, in Auckland, Albany saw about 12ml of rain in the hour after midnight.

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nzherald.co.nz reader Chris Weissenborn sent in this footage of lightning and thunder on the North Shore's Hauraki Corner at 5am this morning.

A number of the stations suffered from communications as the lightning brought down power lines and were not able to transmit statistics, he said.

The freak weather event was caused by extremely warm air moving across the country from Australia ahead of a cold front coming in underneath, he said.

"That really warm air that was over Sydney, baking them in 40-odd degrees a couple of days ago and ahead of that cold front that we had come through last night, that was what was sitting over Auckland...it's really de-stabilised everything and created all those thunderstorms."

Mr Kerr said the cold front had now swept off the country and the North Island could expect some fine spells by the end of the day.

On Monday, a ridge moving across the North Island would bring a more settled day but the South Island was in for strong winds and heavy rain with a warning in place for the western ranges below Otira.

A large palm tree smashed through one of our reader's fences, just missing the neighbour's house. Photo / Jason Darrow
A large palm tree smashed through one of our reader's fences, just missing the neighbour's house. Photo / Jason Darrow

Most of the country would see a "hectic" week weather-wise with fast-moving fronts bringing showers, rain and wind to both islands, he said.

"Across the North Island it's actually going to be a pretty good day [ today]. There's a bit of cloud around still but most of that cloud should break up as the day goes on, leaving a fine day across the North Island and showery in the west and south of the South Island," he said.

"It'll be another hectic Spring week. This is generally the feature of El Nino, generally things move through very quickly so you get this constant changing of systems."

For almost half an hour, thunder and lightning continued non-stop for some central and northern suburbs, WeatherWatch said. Photo / Helen Rishworth
For almost half an hour, thunder and lightning continued non-stop for some central and northern suburbs, WeatherWatch said. Photo / Helen Rishworth

The unusual "continuous thunderstorm event" overnight raged from about 11.55pm to 12.20am non-stop for some central and northern Auckland suburbs, WeatherWatch head analyst Philip Duncan said.

Many members of the public said they had never experienced anything like it, Mr Duncan said.

"A few expressed their concern at 'too close for comfort' forked lightning, including one near-miss to a house in Kaukapakapa," he said.

"The thunderstorm event could have lasted hours had it not been for a near gale westerly blowing it all along."

Jarrod McCallum said the storm was like nothing he'd seen in Auckland before, and he'd spent the best part of 22 years living in the city.

A bolt of lightning hit near his house between 2.30 and 3am, he said.

"Everybody was up. I noticed some smoke," he said. "We went outside and the tree at the end of the street was up in flames."

Mr McCallum said fortunately the fire was confined to the tree and the wind blew flames away from houses.

"It was actually up in flames for probably a good twenty minutes."

Mr McCallum said the storm abated after 5am.

He said the spectacle was "bizarre" and resembled something more like the tropical storms seen in parts of Australia.

"Every couple of seconds there was lightning," he said.

"The whole sky was lighting up every five or 10 seconds or so for periods of half an hour at a time as it blew through.

"It was all on for a good portion of the night."

Aucklanders wrote about their shocking thunderstorm wake-up call on Twitter in the early hours of the morning.

Twitter user @kiwiLiz wrote just after 5am the lightning strikes and thunder were rolling over her house.

"Wakey wakey Auckland, hope someone is getting pics of this glorious thunder storm. 5:30am and all," she wrote.

Maria Hahn wrote: "Heard the storm last night, thought the end had come. #auckland"
The blasts shook houses and sounded like bombs and crashes, tweeters said.

"That thunder in Auckland was literally like a bomb just went off," @hausofcarter said.

Jazz Thornton wrote: "The thunder in Auckland literally just shook my entire house."

Tracy Whelan agreed: "#electrical storm in Auckland early hours of morning was so intense never experienced anything like that...literally shock my house!!!" [sic]

Twitter user Rochelle said it was the loudest storm she had ever heard.

"Massive thunder in Auckland. Two serious cracks. Just now. Loudest I've ever heard."

Some Twitter users used the event to drop in their love of currently-touring band Fleetwood Mac.

"Thunder only happens when it's raining," Felicity Farrell wrote, with the hashtags #FleetwoodMac and #Auckland.

Fleetwood Mac played through the beginnings of the storm to 38,000 people at Mt Smart Stadium last night.