Tornadoes and Hailstones and Rain, oh my!

According to New Zealand’s National Institute for Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA), tornadoes are a ‘relatively rare’ occurrence in the country.

Well, you could have fooled me.

Here in Waikanae Beach, we’ve had 3 tornadoes in 24 hours. And another 2 last week. Granted they’re not the size of the ones you’d find hurtling through Kansas ripping up houses or scaring the living daylights out of Helen Hunt and Bill Paxton, but they’ve still caused a fair amount of damage to anything unlucky enough to be in their path.

Following yet another night of rain, hail, lightening, thunder and wind (as well as about 46 minutes of sleep), I decided to go out with my camera to see what I could find. I knew that the wild weather wasn’t officially over yet but although I could see it was incredibly windy outside, there was no rain forecast. I thought I’d go and check out Waimea Lagoon as I knew that one of the tornadoes had been through there.

Down at the lagoon, I came across a lady wearing a Swanndri-style coat, woolly hat and thick black rimmed glass, clearing branches from her front lawn. She told me that the tornado had passed through the house next door, removing some of the roof and taking down part of the fence before aquaplaning its way over the lagoon and smashing into a tree on the other side.

Fence on one side of the lagoon damaged by the tornado…….
……..and the tree on the other side.

This tree is the local shags favourite perching place and they looked pretty lost this morning, sitting by the water’s edge, wondering what happened to their home.

The storm not only brought multiple tornadoes but it also caused torrential downpours which in turn caused flooding in many areas of Waikanae Beach. Most of the houses here were built on sand and if they are low-lying (like our bach), the land around them can be prone to ponding. This is when rainwater collects on the ground and can’t drain away quick enough.

Our front lake garden

We were lucky. Our house is raised up high enough to prevent any water ingress but some other properties further down the road weren’t so fortunate.

I continued walking around the lagoon edge, noting that many of the jetty’s were underwater.

Sunken jetty

The gravel path skirts around the edge of the lagoon before winding it’s way to the estuary and then the beach. The wind really picked up here and it became a struggle to walk in a straight line. At one point, my headphones were blown clean out of my ears! Thankfully they’re old skool ones, attached to my phone by a wire so they didn’t get very far. I could taste the salt on my lips as the wind whipped sand and sea water into the air. The noise was deafening as I reached the top of the dunes and I could barely turn my head in the direction of the sea. Every time I tried to take a photograph of the churning water, an enormous gust of wind would push me sideways or backwards as if deliberately trying to stop me capturing it’s ferocity on camera. I can honestly say, I have never experienced wind like it and I went out for a walk in Storm Eunice back in the UK in February!

Churning water down at the beach

It took one frighteningly strong gust of wind that nearly knocked me off my feet to send me scurrying back towards the lagoon, fearful that another tornado would touch down any minute. On my way back I saw more damage to the roof of a property that, given it’s proximity to the lagoon, was probably in the path of the tornado that broke the branches off the shags’ tree.

The roof tiles have been dislodged and the TV antenna bent in half

I did capture one thing that brought a smile to my face. Amidst all the flooding, wind, rain and hail, the faintest of rainbows could be seen breaking through the pewter grey sky.

I’m sure there was a book written about tornadoes and rainbows…….


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