Far North residents are still cleaning tornado damage to 20 homes after wild storms buffeted the North Island yesterday, bringing thousands of lightning strikes and cutting power in the Bay of Plenty.

Auckland escaped mostly unharmed as a huge weather system that had inundated Australia's east coast earlier this week blew in from the Tasman Sea.

The front dumped 7.2mm of rain on Auckland in one hour as thunder erupted overhead and the front's line of storms hit.

Tornadoes scooting through Coopers Beach in the Far North caused havoc in a rapid five-minute spell, ripping the roof off one home and blowing out windows and damaging decks on others.

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Civil defence has declared two homes uninhabitable, while two people suffered minor injuries.

A second mini tornado struck Kaiwaka, about 100km north of Auckland, while a reported third tornado also hit in the Bay of Plenty as the storm front passed across the North Island, cutting power to thousands of homes.

Auckland was expecting more lightning overnight, but the front should have passed over the North Island by this morning. Kiwis can now expect a brief reprieve before a cold front bringing snow to the mountain ranges rolls up from the south tomorrow.

Auckland can this morning expect the odd shower and a high of 18C, before further rain and strong winds hit this evening.

Coopers Beach

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

Striking Coopers Beach in the Far North, it tore the roof from a home, damaged decks and windows and scattered trampolines and other loose items.

John Mokaraka and his wife were watching TV when they heard wild winds approaching - and watched in horror as chunks of the lounge roof were whipped off.

"We were watching TV and we heard the wind pick up. All we heard was a loud roar - then the windows popped and the roof lifted off," he said.

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The couple suffered minor injuries.

Theirs was one of two homes declared uninhabitable by civil defence. They were left to pack up what they could and stay with friends in the area.

The clean-up from the damage will continue into the coming days.

Inky black

Before the tornadoes hit, an eery calm had descended on the coastal town, Doug Newson from Coopers Beach Sports said.

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

The thunder and rain hit 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 and the afternoon soon 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.

Mini tornado

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

Kellie and Matthew Chisholm told OneNews they had moved to Kaiwaka from Auckland in December last year for a "better life".

With their home being built offsite, the had been living in a motor home and storing their belongings in a shed when the powerful winds struck, tearing the shed apart in seconds.

A tearful Chisolm said she looked outside and the shed was gone and their belongings scattered everywhere.

Sky Tower

Yesterday's wild weather produced light shows across the North Island as 3200 lightning strikes were recorded on land and in coastal waters by 5.30pm.

One strike was captured on camera spearing into the tip of Auckland's Sky Tower, caught on camera by a city resident at about 1pm.

The video showed the lightning projecting straight down on the tower, with a massive clap booming straight after.

The Sky Tower is fully earthed to prevent danger from lightning, with a dynasphere on top of the mast to conduct lightning during storms.

A MetService graphic showed the lightning and storms making their way into New Zealand from the west and north from 9am yesterday morning, before passing through the Coromandel and Bay of Plenty.

The storms cut power to more than 1000 Bay of Plenty homes before moving into the ranges west of Gisborne.