A man near Ruakaka, in Northland, was struck with awe after what appeared to be a tornado fell from the sky around lunchtime today.

Taff Johnstone told the Herald he was working when he spotted the strange cloud formation working its way towards the ground.

"I noticed this thing coming down and said to my boss, 'look, it's a tornado,' just taking the piss, and he said, 'yeah, yeah, get back to work,'" he said.

"I looked again and it kept coming down and getting bigger, I took a video and everyone stopped to watch it for a while."


MetService meteorologist Melissa Oosterwijk said it might have looked like a tornado but the cloud formation was actually funnel cloud.

A funnel cloud is a rotating funnel-shaped cloud forming the core of a tornado or waterspout.

"Funnel clouds can form a tornado if the funnel reaches the ground, but in NZ this usually doesn't happen," Oosterwijk said.

The funnel cloud near Ruakaka. Photo / Supplied
The funnel cloud near Ruakaka. Photo / Supplied

"We had a look at the weather over the Ruakaka area, and while it's not impossible, the conditions over that area weren't particularly favourable for funnel cloud formation either today or yesterday."

Johnstone said today was "really hot" in the township, which is about 30km south of Whangārei, and shortly before the cloud formed dark clouds had rolled over above them.

The funnel cloud came down from the sky towards the ground but did not touch land.

"It crept down quite far and went back up and we could see it twirling around up there," he said.

"It didn't last too long ... it came right down for about five minutes but then it started going back up."

Funnel cloud conditions were more favourable further north near the Bay of Islands because a convection was a bit more active around there, Oosterwijk said.

"Either way, the video definitely shows funnel cloud, rather than a tornado."

Last month, a Waikato sharemilker captured an image of a giant tornado sweeping across farmland.

Sam Owen, who lives at Eureka, was heading west along State Highway 26 in his tractor when he spotted the strange cloud formation in the distance.

"I was really weird. I didn't really know what it was until I got a photo of it just as it was reaching down and it just kind of pulled out and all of a sudden it started to suck out what looked like soil or dust into the atmosphere."