As a tornado twisted its way towards Canterbury farmer Nick Hoogeveen, he "downed tools and ran for it".

The twister formed at about 3pm yesterday, picking up a four-and-a-half tonne trailer on its way across Mr Hoogeveen's neighbour's property in Carew, near Ashburton.

Wow never seen this before

Posted by Brendon Steer on Sunday, December 13, 2015

"I was inside and one of my managers rang me and I went outside to take photos.

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He said the tornado appeared to twist about a kilometre into the sky, and had a big bend in the middle.

"It sort of started to get a bit wider at the bottom and raced straight for me, and I ran like hell," the father of three said.

His neighbour's silage wagon got picked up by the twister and put down again, and the tractor beside it had its windows smashed.

It moved a 100m-long irrigator and was picking up objects as it tracked towards him, Mr Hoogeveen said.

The twister picked up a four-and-a-half tonne trailer on its way across the property in Carew. Photo / Facebook
The twister picked up a four-and-a-half tonne trailer on its way across the property in Carew. Photo / Facebook

"My wife was in the garage and I said 'get inside the house, there's a tornado coming' and she said 'whatever'. It was a bit freaky."

"I could see it was picking stuff up and spinning it round as it went past the neighbours - I thought 'I hope that's not people'."

Luckily, Mr Hoogeveen said his three young daughters were safe inside their house at the time - but the experience was enough to leave him feeling shaken.

Despite the twister being strong enough to move the heavy trailer, MetService forecaster Gerard Barrow said it was weak when compared with the type seen in the United States - likely no more than a zero on the Fujita scale, the official scale used to measure tornadoes.

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The tornado was formed in Carew, near Ashburton.
The tornado was formed in Carew, near Ashburton.

"If it was stronger, it would have done much more damage," he said.

It hit the area, which was experiencing thunderstorms and hail, about 3pm yesterday.

Mr Barrow said Twisters weren't unusual in the area, as there were quite often thunderstorms in eastern Canterbury.

He said they were caused when the ground was warm, but the temperature higher up was cooler, creating an upward draft of air.

The severe storm in Canterbury also caused fires and flooding and took down power lines.