By Thomas Mead with NZN
A small tornado has cut power in parts of Kaikoura this morning, after blowing the roof off a shed and sending it through nearby power lines.
Police say the "mini-tornado" struck early this morning on Beach Road, but was short-lived and there were no injuries.
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Mainpower’s Engineering Network Manager Peter Hurford says around 100 homes lost power in the area.
Work is currently underway to repair the lines with power expected to return by midday, he says.
Kaikoura resident Pam Sigglekow says the wind was “horrendous”.
“It was frightening … it was the strongest I’ve ever felt and I’d lived up there for 40-odd years.”
Local business owner Robin Lockhart, who runs the Beachcomber Hotel, was half a block away when the twister struck.
“The wind was very strong. The trees were bent at right angles, it was just so strong. It lasted around 15 seconds, it wasn’t just like a gust that went through,” she says.
“One of our guests was outside and she was pinned to her car. She came back inside before the gust was completely over and she was only taking short steps, she was trying to hurry but she couldn’t.”
MetService meteorologist Daniel Corbett says the tornado was likely a “little eddy” of wind that was “too small to be detected on the radar”.
“The easiest way to think of it is to imagine if you had a pile of leaves on the street and a leafblower. You’d take the leafblower and blow it at the pile of leaves … some are going to twist on the edges with gusts of wind,” he says.
“It’s that little twisting, that little eddy, that can sometimes cause these mini-tornados.”
More wild weather for south
Much of the South Island was hit by bad weather overnight with heavy rain closing two state highways, including the road linking Wanaka with Haast.
State Highway 6, which only fully reopened on Monday after a bridge approach at Harihari was washed out by the raging Wanganui River last week, was closed after a washout 4km north of Makarora.
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Further south, part of SH94 road from Lumsden to Te Anau was closed after a bridge over Whitestone River was washed out, according to the New Zealand Transport Agency.
Traffic was being diverted to SH95.
Another part of SH94 to Milford Sound also remained closed after it was closed on Wednesday because of fears the heavy rain could cause rockfalls.
NZTA expects it to reopen on Thursday but warned it may not be until later in the morning.
Lightning strikes in Canterbury, Otago
Elsewhere, surface flooding was reported in Gore and other areas of Southland while a series of lightning strikes sparked fire in Canterbury and Central Otago.
There were seven fires overnight and one, a scrub fire at Swannanoa, near Kaiapoi was still burning on Thursday morning.
Heavy rain forced the closure of the Milford Track on Wednesday for the second time this month, confining about 120 trampers to the three huts as officials stopped anyone starting the walk.
The heaviest rain was expected in Westland, where up to 400mm was forecast for the ranges south of Otira over a 25-hour period up to Thursday morning.
High winds also hit large parts of the country with gusts of up to 150km/h in some parts of Canterbury and gusts of 140km/h in Wellington, Wairarapa and the Marlborough Sounds expected to last until around midday on Thursday.
The MetService says that on Friday, a ridge of high pressure is expected to move onto New Zealand bringing benign weather to most areas.
3 News / NZN