Auckland's distinctive multi-purpose event venue, The Cloud, has been ripped to shreds during last night's fierce storm with a third of the roofing fabric in the Harbour sea.

Emergency services were called to Queen's Wharf venue at about 10.40pm after reports the severe weather had a left "a large hole" in the roofing.

Focus: Fierce winds and heavy rain leave Auckland’s Cloud in tatters. Video / Jason Oxenham

Police say there have been no reports of injuries and everyone has been evacuated.

The Harbourmaster is checking it is safe for boats to move through and the Auckland Council has been informed, a police spokeswoman told the Herald.

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Roofs have also been ripped from several homes in St Heliers as a fierce storm tore through Auckland on Sunday night, bringing torrential rain, strong winds gusts and dozens of lightning strikes.

One of the properties was a Bermuda Rd preschool in St Heliers.

A witness at the scene said multiple houses were seriously damaged with roofs ripped off and fences smashed through windows.

"Some of the residents were already calling their insurers, it's pretty bad," he said.

The area has been cordoned off as Fire and Emergency services attend the scene.

Fire and Emergency NZ is responding more than a dozen emergency callouts, mainly in St Heliers, and confirmed a house had been struck by lightning in Kemeu.

It is unclear whether anyone has been injured in the storm.

About 1700 lightning strikes were recorded across the country by 8.55pm, with 50 strikes hitting Auckland in the hour between 8pm and 9pm.

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A Herald reader said West Auckland was being lashed with a "huge torrential downpour".

The reader said there had been several claps of thunder.

One felt like it lasted for at least 30 seconds and was so loud her husband went to check on their children.

Lifelong Manurewa resident Brendan Lambert said his living room lit up with flashes of lightning, followed closely by cracks of thunder.

Not long after it began raining so hard he thought the roof had sprung holes and the rain was coming directly into the ceiling.

"It was the most extreme 5-10 minute storm I've experienced in Manurewa," he said.

Video from central Auckland showed the SkyTower being lit up by lightning as waves of heavy rain fell.

MetService earlier warned large hail could cause significant damage to glasshouses and vehicles and make driving conditions difficult.

"Very strong wind gusts can break branches from trees, damage roofing, and make driving hazardous especially for high-sided vehicles and motorcycles."

The severe thunderstorm warning was lifted for the Auckland radar area about 8.45pm as the storm weakened.

Earlier on Sunday, people in northern parts of the North Island were warned to brace for severe thunderstorms this evening, as a large trough swept in from the west.

MetService meteorologist Curtis Hayes said the storm was hitting Waitomo about 7.30pm and quickly making its way north towards Auckland.

Lightning strikes had already been detected over South Auckland, with forecasters warning at 7.15pm: "The main band of activity is still out to sea, but will be over the city in about an hour or so".

"Around 900 lightning strikes had already hit the North Island so far, with more activity happening offshore. This is likely to continue through the night," Hayes said.

A severe thunderstorm watch was in force for Northland, Auckland, Great Barrier Island, Coromandel Peninsula, Waikato and Bay of Plenty.

The storm is now making its way towards the Hunua Ranges and Clevedon and would then move towards Thames, Firth of Thames, Southern Coromandel Ranges and Kerepehi.

The Ministry of Civil Defence and Emergency Management advises that as storms approach you should:

- Take shelter, preferably indoors away from windows;
- Avoid sheltering under trees, if outside;
- Move cars under cover or away from trees;
- Secure any loose objects around your property;
- Check that drains and gutters are clear;
- Be ready to slow down or stop, if driving.
During and after the storm, you should also:
- Beware of fallen trees and power lines;

Earlier Peter Little said a severe thunderstorm watch was in force for regions between Northland and the Bay of Plenty and Waikato – with the worst expected to arrive sooner rather than later.

Storms due to arrive on Sunday evening could be packing wind gusts of 110km/h or even stronger – and there was a "strong likelihood" of localised downpours and hail, especially over the North Island.

Much of the squally weather could be put down to strong and persistent jet stream, which had provided the necessary upward motion to deepen a low-pressure system over the country, while fuelling thunderstorm activity over northern and central regions.

Little encouraged people to be vigilant.

"If people do hear thunderstorms approaching and they're outside, they should try to take shelter inside," he said.

"It's not a good idea to stand under a tree or anything else that can act as a good conductor. And if these thunderstorms are severe – wind gusts of around 110km/h could be enough to push people and objects around – they should obviously seek shelter as well.

"These thunderstorms do have the potential to cause some damage in a very short time."

Few places in New Zealand had managed to escape the wild weather this weekend, as a complex low-pressure system moved slowly on to the country from the Tasman Sea.

While the heavy rain and snow that has affected parts of Canterbury and Otago this weekend has eased, an unstable northwesterly flow remains over the North Island and upper South Island.

Police are warning travellers to avoid or delay travelling near Waitaki Bridge, around 200 metres south of Oamaru Airport, due to deep flooding. They say there are no diversions in place and emergency services are responding to incidents as required.

"The most rain fell about the northwest of the South Island, South Canterbury and North Otago, but the heavy rain in the east of the South Island has eased," Little said.

"Oamaru Airport has recorded an impressive 81mm of rain so far this weekend, which is around double what they usually receive during the whole month of August.

"This rain caused flooding that closed State Highway 1 north to Timaru for a time on Sunday morning."

Further inland, snowfall affected many of the South Island passes, with Arthurs Pass and Lewis Pass closed for much of Saturday and Sunday morning after being blanketed by 30cm to 40cm of snow.

"Although travel was disrupted, Canterbury's skiers couldn't be happier after most slopes received a dumping of around half a metre of new snow."

To complete the weather trifecta, thunderstorms rattled their way across northern and central New Zealand over the weekend, with severe thunderstorm watches issued on both days.

"Some of the thunderstorms were identified as severe and warnings were issued, which included the thunderstorm that brought large hail and torrential rain to Wellington's southern suburbs on Saturday afternoon."

The weather would remain unsettled over northern and central New Zealand tomorrow, with more thunderstorms forecast for western areas.

Meanwhile, the low moved away to the east and a cool southwesterly flow was forecast to develop over southern New Zealand, bringing showers.

This system would strengthen and spread over all of New Zealand on Tuesday, with gales likely in exposed places.

Southwesterlies and showers would gradually ease during Wednesday and Thursday, but a front would bring rain to the West Coast and far south of the South Island on Friday.