• Two tornadoes hit the North Island, damaging 20 homes and injuring 2 people
• Lightning hit NZ land and coastal areas more than 3200 times today
• 1000+ homes in Bay of Plenty without power<
• Reports of third tornado ripping through Te Puna, just outside Tauranga
• Top wind speed of 114km/hr; 89km/hr measured in an urban area
• Wellington flight delays expected as strong wind warning in place
• Auckland, Northland get a breather before southwesterlies and more rain
Two tornadoes - one strong enough to rip off the roof of a home - have hit properties north of Auckland today. A reported third tornado has also ripped through Te Puna in the Bay of Plenty, downing trees.
Fire & Emergency NZ (FENZ) spokesman Daniel Nicholson said fire crews had discovered 20 homes in the Coopers Beach area that were damaged, mostly superficially.
Two homes closest to State Highway 10 were badly damaged with roofs torn off and multiple windows smashed. They have been declared uninhabitable by a Far North District Council building inspector.
A couple staying in one of the homes were injured when the tornado tore through, lifting off the roof and breaking windows, sending shards of glass flying.
The active weather system that caused so much damage has moved south to sit over the Bay of Plenty, where hundreds of lightning strikes have been measured. The MetService has issued a severe thunderstorm watch for the Bay of Plenty and Rotorua until 7pm.
A third tornado has reportedly ripped through Te Puna, northwest of Tauranga, uprooting trees.
Trees have fallen across railway tracks near the Snodgrass Rd overbridge in Te Puna. A reporter at the scene said a train appeared to be stopped in the distance.
In Northland, occupants were packing up what they could and staying with friends in the area. Security guards were being posted until the properties could be made secure.
A "mini tornado" has also hit Kaiwaka, about 100km north of Auckland. Truck driver Craig says he witnessed the tornado after first noticing a flash of lightning.
"I just saw this big tree go across the road in front of me. It was literally a flying tree that landed in the middle of the road," he said. The local fire brigade was clearing the debris.
The bad weather has battered much of the North Island today with thunderstorms moving from Northland down to Auckland and the Bay of Plenty.
Strikes are still hitting the Bay of Plenty but the storms are moving into the Gisborne ranges.
Flight delays, slow commutes home likely
Air New Zealand said there were likely to be disruptions to flights in and out of Wellington this afternoon. MetService has issued a strong wind warning for the capital until the early hours of Thursday, with severe southerly gales potentially gusting to 120 km/h in exposed places.
Gusts of that speed could damage trees, powerlines and unsecured structures. Driving may be hazardous, especially for high-sided vehicles and motorcycles, MetService said.
With poor weather forecast throughout the North Island, Air New Zealand has recommended all customers booked to travel to or from a North Island airport check the arrivals and departure page on the Air New Zealand website for their flight status.
The airline said anyone booked on a domestic flight to or from Wellington from 1pm would be given ticket flexibility. Customers would be sent notifications about how they can make changes to their booking online.
Auckland Transport has warned commuters that the weather would cause delays and disruptions to ferry services throughout the day and into the evening.
The organisation also warned those cycling and walking to take care and watch out for debris, with strong gales and heavy rain expected.
Auckland ferry company Fullers said its Half Moon Bay ferries were being replaced by buses due to "operational constraints", while its Waiheke ferries would be more packed than normal thanks to the 5.30pm ferry breaking down.
Fire and Emergency NZ northern shift manager Daniel Nicholson said the service had been called to around a dozen reports of trees down, including a "flurry" of callouts to Putaruru and Matamata area. Minimal flooding had been reported as the rain had arrived and left quickly.
In the Waikato a large tree came down near Tirau, blocking State Highway 5 in both directions. Police were notified around 3.20pm. Emergency services were helping with traffic management while authorities cleared the road.
A driver just north of Tirau at 2.45pm said the rain and wind in the area was so strong that all vehicles had pulled off the road. "[It was] like a wave broke over the windscreen, absolutely zero visibility, rain sideways," the driver told the Herald.
Northland cleanup before more rain arrives
A Coopers Beach resident has posted a photo of the damage to one house to Facebook with corrugated iron and planks of wood strewn across the property.
The homeowner also posted a photo of their trampoline getting thrown around during the storm.
The home's deck was also broken, with part of the railing broken off.
A Torsby Rd resident said she was sleeping after a night shift when she was woken by an almighty bang.
"[There was] a loud boom. The neighbours' roof must have flown off onto my side and damaged my deck. Tiles are ripped of one corner of my roof and broken spouting."
She said no one was in the house at the time and believed it was a holiday home.
She described the house as having "major" roof damage.
Since the storm, police had driven around to affected areas to make sure all the residents were okay, including herself.
Volunteer firefighters from Mangonui and Kaitaia attended the scene at Coopers Beach until they were relieved by a FENZ mobile command unit.
An Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) team from Auckland was sent to Coopers Beach but has since been stood down.
Another resident said the winds had since dropped and there was blue sky.
"[It's] blue sky at the moment and as still as anything," she said.
One resident said: "Roof off. Decking rails come off. Tramp upside down. Bushes ripped out."
Another resident wrote on Facebook that their neighbour's caravan had been flipped by the tornado.
Bad weather moves south but rain, wind on the way for Auckland, Northland
Tauranga and the Bay of Plenty are now in the firing line after the most active line of heavy rain moved through Northland and Auckland, according to MetService meteorologist Angus Hines.
"There are still extensive areas of rain between the Wairarapa and Marlborough Sounds, and there are further showers just off the coast that are about to push into Northland in the next few hours."
Northland could see pockets of decent rain but it didn't look widespread, he said.
Wellington had had a very wet day, Hines said. The band of rain moving across the lower North Island was slower moving, meaning rainfall accumulations were likely to be decent.
MetService had measured almost 500 lightning strikes across the New Zealand area - which includes the ocean - between 1.30pm and 3.30pm. Niwa has recorded 36,875 lightning strikes between Australia and New Zealand since Monday morning.
So far the strongest gust of wind had been measured at White Island, hitting 114km/h at 1pm, Hines said. The strongest wind reported in a populated area was an 89km/h gust in Whangaparaoa, measured at about 11am, Hines said.
Winds were also picking up around Wellington, the Wairarapa and the Marlborough Sounds, and are now hitting gale force in the Cook Strait, where a 109km/h gust has been measured on Brothers Island.
In the northern North Island the current northerly wind has eased off but a strong southwesterly would push through later this evening, with further showers expected.
Much of the lower South Island has escaped the weather so far, remaining clear and sunny, although there is a cold wind. Frosts are expected tonight with parts of the South Island heading toward 0C or below.
Mt Egmont last 12 hours - 30mm rain
hamilton airport 23mm - last 6 hours
coromandel golden valley 22.8m
22mm in wellington
auckland airport 17.6mm - 7.2mm in one hour once in 6mm per hour considered heavy rain
- More to come