A lightning strike "like a sonic boom" has terrified residents of a North Island town and damaged trees, cars and houses.

Sharyn Newman, from Tokoroa, said she was woken by the sound of breaking glass this morning.

"It was about 6am and there was a sonic boom that I heard, and in amongst the boom the shatter of window.

"I went to check on the grandkids and they were terrified. So I settled them and then saw flames across the street with a bright yellow glow.

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"I originally thought a house was on fire."

The lightning strike had obliterated a neighbour's large cedar tree and ruptured a gas line, which caught alight.

"The debris - we're not talking limbs or branches and things," said Newman.

"We're talking tree trunks. We're talking big, massive - I've never witnessed anything like it in my life."

The damage is spread over four or five properties on West Parkdale St and Kauri St.

A fallen tree partially crushed a ute. One neighbour's door has been smashed in and another house has a hole in it. At another property, appliances were thrown across rooms by the force of the blast.

The gas line is still burning, hours after the lightning strike.

Newman said the firefighters at the scene wanted the gas to stay alight so they could control it.

"If they had let the flame go out that would be raw gas coming out of the ground. If that happens you've the risk of explosion and … they'd have to evacuate the entire area."

No one was injured by the blast, though Newman said her grandchildren, Molly, 4, and Mayson, 6, were a little rattled.

"Nana's made them a hot chocolate and some marshmallows so they're okay."