Winds that peeled away a roof, pulled out fences and pulled off garage doors showed the true power of Cyclone Gita in Greymouth on Tuesday night.

Cobden resident Blair Buckman, 23, said the storm had ripped out fences, pulled off garage doors.

He watched the roof of a house in Cobden being peeled off by the gale-force winds.

"A tree almost snapped like a matchstick."

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He observed the destruction as he walked to the end of his street to check in on elderly people in the street.

But as the sun set, the town was plunged into darkness as power to streetlights was knocked out.

All he could hear was the "sharp noisy howling" of the gale-force winds.

A radio update advised him the storm would last another five hours after 7pm.

Meanwhile, Kathleen, also of Cobden, said the wind was "horrendous and terrifying" as she sat in her raincoat in her house waiting for morning to come.

"It eases and then it builds, it eases and then it builds and when it hits you can feel your house move."

The wind had been consistent since 10am.

Buildings had lost roofs, she said.

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"I am not moving until tomorrow morning. I'm not going to bed.

"To go to bed you are not on alert, you must be on alert."

She would leave if she had to, she said.

She had taken precautions by taping windows on the south and east side of her house where the winds were striking.

After the sun rose Buckman said he would check in on his grandmother and see if he could lend a hand to anyone whose properties that had been damaged by the ex-cyclone.

The Buller District declared a state of emergency earlier today.

Buller District Mayor Garry Howard said the Red Cross and police issued concerns about an area in Granity under threat of both wind and sea.

"Half a dozen houses are affected at the present state, in that Granity area," Howard said.

Howard said Granity is close to the sea and the main road is "fully exposed". He said the area was also affected by Cyclone Fehi.

"They certainly had the inundation from the sea surge. This time it is the wind that is causing the issues, along with the sea swell."

Howard said another reason behind declaring a state of emergency was wanting to initiate any evacuations during daylight hours.

"We don't want to go doing evacuations in the hours of darkness."