KEY POINTS:
• Three tornadoes hit the North Island on Wednesday, damaging 20 homes and injuring two people
• 3200 lightning strikes on land and over coastal waters, including 600 in the two hours to 5.30pm
• Mt Taranaki lashed with the most rain with 30mm, while 23mm has fallen in Hamilton and 22m in Wellington over the last 6 hours
• Top wind speed of 114km/h; 89km/h measured in an urban area
• Wellington flight delays expected as winds pick up
• 1000+ homes in Bay of Plenty without power
• Auckland, Northland get a breather before southwesterlies and more rain

After a day of wild weather and devastating tornadoes, the next front is already moving in bringing more treacherous wintry conditions.

Many parts of the country were lashed by severe thunderstorms on Wednesday, with thousands of lightning strikes.

At least three tornadoes smashed parts of Northland and the Bay of Plenty, lifting roofs and leaving at least two homes uninhabitable.

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Workers on the roof of a damaged home after tornado hits Coopers Beach. Photo / Peter de Graaf
Workers on the roof of a damaged home after tornado hits Coopers Beach. Photo / Peter de Graaf

Freezing temperatures also brought snow to some areas and made driving conditions perilous.

But it's not over yet.

A second front is now approaching our shores which promises to lash much of the country with more nasty winter conditions today.

In a tweet, the MetService said: "As one system pulls away, another enters the fray. Thursday's front is a bit more run-of-the-mill compared to today, but it [will] lead further rain, wind and hail up the Aotearoa."

Many Kiwis would have needed an extra rug overnight as temperatures drop below zero in parts of the South Island.

Timaru and Alexandra were facing overnight lows of -3C, while Queenstown, Ashburton and Blenheim were facing -2C.

In the North Island Taupo was set to drop to an overnight low of 1C, while Palmerston North faced 3C and Wellington 5C.

Auckland was relatively warm - a balmy low of 10C - while Hamilton fell to 5C.

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In Northland, the sky turned inky black and went deadly silent moments before lightning pulsed and a tornado "let rip", damaging up to 20 homes.

The tornado struck Coopers Beach in the Far North, tearing a roof off a home, pulling sheds apart, and damaging decks and windows. Other parts of New Zealand have also been pelted by bad weather and at least two more tornadoes have hit.

The high winds tore off roofs in Coopers Beach and toppled trampolines. Photo / supplied
The high winds tore off roofs in Coopers Beach and toppled trampolines. Photo / supplied

A Fire & Emergency NZ (Fenz) spokesman said as at 3pm fire crews have now discovered 20 homes in the Coopers Beach area have been damaged, mostly superficially.

Two homes closest to State Highway 10 have been badly damaged, with roofs torn off and multiple windows smashed.

They have been declared uninhabitable by a Far North District Council building inspector.

The active weather system that caused so much damage in Northland moved through Auckland to the Bay of Plenty, where hundreds of lightning strikes were recorded.

A Coopers Beach resident lost her deck railing and her neighbour's roof was ripped off in the weather event. Photo / Facebook
A Coopers Beach resident lost her deck railing and her neighbour's roof was ripped off in the weather event. Photo / Facebook

The occupants of the Northland homes are packing up what they can and will stay with friends in the area. Security guards will be posted until the properties can be made secure.

36,875 lightning strikes between Australia and New Zealand since Monday morning 🤯 How's that for current events? ⚡ ⚡ ⚡ >Ben

Posted by NIWA Weather on Tuesday, 4 June 2019

Fire & Emergency NZ said crews had now discovered 20 homes damaged in the Coopers Beach area, most of them superficially.

But 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.

Their occupants are packing up what they can and will stay with friends in the area. Security guards will be posted until the properties can be made secure.

The sky above the coastal town had earlier darkened just moments before the wild weather broke, Doug Newson from Coopers Beach Sports said.

"The fascinating thing was the stillness to start off with - it was dead still," he said.

"Then it went that inky black colour, we got one big flash of pulsing lightning and then she let rip."

The thunder and rain fell upon the town in a rush.

Newson's store wasn't damaged, but the rain blew virtually sideways about 2m to 3m inside the shop.

Plastic flowers outside the $2 dollar shop next door went flying, with the owner scurrying to catch his remaining stock.

"One of them disappeared past me, he's hanging on to the other one, trying to get them in the doorway."

Elsewhere, palm fronds whistled down the road, while locals dashed into Newson's store for cover, he said.

But after just three minutes or so, the storm was gone.

A 5-10 knot wind was left behind before the afternoon turned to blue skies and sunshine, Newson said.

However, reports of the "devastating" damage around town quickly filtered in as locals visited Newson's store.

"A gentleman's conservatory has completely blown in and dented, and the windows are gone," he said.

"Another house's windows have come completely out, there's decks blown apart."

He said Aucklanders who owned baches and homes in Coopers Beach had also been calling the shop to ask Newson if their properties had been damaged.

Newson said the tornado "had chosen" its own path through the town, mostly hitting Torsby Rd and State Highway 10.

A second "mini tornado", meanwhile has also struck a shed in Kaiwaka, about 100km north of Auckland in the Kaipara area, emptying the shed's contents.

Civil Defence officials are going door to door to check everyone is okay.

At least two people have been injured.

In Coopers Beach, a Fire and Emergency mobile command unit has arrived and will take charge so volunteer firefighters from Mangonui and Kaitaia can go back to work.

An Urban Search and Rescue team from Auckland was en-route to Coopers Beach.

Two fire crews will remain at the scene helping with the clean-up until USAR crews arrive. Civil Defence and police were also responding, the spokesman said.

Truck driver Craig says he witnessed the event, 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.

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.

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.

MetService earlier warned of tornadoes in northern and eastern areas and squally thunderstorms were expected across Northland, Auckland and Coromandel Peninsula in the morning.