The small tornado tore through Levin as the impact was cold. Videos / Facebook
A tornado tore through Levin this morning, causing widespread damage, with downed trees and power lines blocking roads around Horowhenua and roofs ripped off.
Residents have been told to avoid non-essential travel, with some streets and schools closed.
Horowhenua County Mayor Bernie Wanden is advising Levin locals to “keep their heads down” as the area continues to experience severe thunderstorms after a minor tornado swept through.
He said this morning’s weather chaos had hurt some people as the tornado left a trail of devastation through the western part of town.
Some roofs had been blown off, many trees were toppled and there was widespread power outage, Wanden said.
“We’re just in the process of trying to restore power, clean up debris and get things back to normal as quickly as possible.”
Two major roads around Levin were blocked off after a small tornado swept through around 6:30 a.m.
Police said they will hold more community reassurance patrols in Levin today and warn of surface flooding and downed power lines.
State 1 at Levin between Durham St and Supercheap Auto was closed following reports of a strong smell of gas in the area.
Waka Kotahi Transport NZ also reported that SH57 was closed between Tararua Road and Queen Road due to a fallen tree.
MP Ōtaki Terisa Ngobi posted photos of the damage to the Labor Party office after the tornado.
“The back wall of our office has completely disappeared and trees have fallen on the main street.”
Ngobi is urging those planning to pass through Levin to avoid it altogether as even the diversion is starting to cause severe congestion on the roads.
Children attending local schools were asked to stay home as many schools and daycare facilities were soon closed.
Wearing a raincoat with a hood, she explained the path the tornado took and the resulting damage done in the back, on the road and down the street.
Workers can be seen chopping down a large tree blocking the main road.
“Again, the biggest message is to stay at home,” Ngobi said on a Facebook live video on her official page.
“Please stay safe.”
She said her office was “fairly damaged” but she knew many local families were also dealing with extensive damage to their properties this morning.
Drivers are asked to postpone travel or take alternative routes.
A Civil Defense incident management team is in Levin and is urging everyone to stay home unless travel is important.
• Streets currently closed:
Cambridge St (from Liverpool to Bath St)
Mako Mako Street
• Several schools across Levin closed today while assessing the damage. These include:
St Joseph’s School
“CDEM Incident Management Teams have been called to assist emergency services across Levin. Police, Fire and Emergency Services, St John, contractors and growers have all been activated to respond to the incident. support,” said a spokesman for the council.
Roof damage, power outages, polar explosions hit NZ
Horowhenua residents are reporting widespread damage to roofs around Ohau due to power outages in the area and a thick layer of hail covering the ground.
It was reported that iron roofing had blown off the train tracks and locals described the blast before it appeared as “gnarly”.
The tornado came as Mother Nature orchestrated a series of weather today with snow, gales and rain forecasts for many parts of the country.
Snow is forecast over most of the South Island as well as parts of the lower and central North Island today and over the weekend.
While temperatures in the upper North Island will be relatively warm, wind gusts have been issued for Auckland’s Hauraki Bay, Port Manukau, Coromandel, the Bay of Plenty and Bream Head in Northland to Cape Colville.
It follows a spectacular flash of lightning over central New Zealand last night and stormy conditions continued this morning for the capital.
MetService has issued road snow warnings for Crown Range, Milford Rd, Desert Rd, Lewis Pass and Arthurs Pass over the next 24 hours.
Snow is expected to fall 400m in Southland and Otago, 800m in Canterbury High Country and 1000m in central and southern North Island.
“This will be the lowest snow many people have seen this year,” MetService said.
Temperatures have also dropped significantly on the South Island with an expected high of 12C in Christchurch today, a stark difference from yesterday’s peak of 20C.
Peaks of 11 degrees Celsius are forecast in Dunedin, 9 degrees Celsius in Queenstown and 14 degrees Celsius in Nelson.
Much of the North Island has not seen a drop in temperatures with highs expected of 18 degrees Celsius in Auckland, 16 degrees Celsius in Hamilton and 15 degrees Celsius in Wellington.
Temperatures at Aoraki/Mt Cook are set to -4C overnight tonight and Saturday.
“We could pave the way for the first significant snowfall of the year as we wrap up the week,” said MetService meteorologist Angus Hines.
Thunder activity is also expected to continue today after more than 800 lightning bolts were recorded yesterday.
MetService said there was a moderate risk of thunderstorms on the east coast of the main islands this morning as well as in the lower south. The danger continues into this afternoon.
Big wave forecast
Heavy rains are also expected to hit some areas of the country today.
Boaties near Foveaux Strait are being warned for high water, poor visibility and rough seas Thursday through Saturday, before easing on Sunday.
“Large waves and hazardous coastal conditions are expected in sea areas west of both the North and South Islands from Thursday,” MetService said.
“Combining waves are forecast to reach 6m in the southwest of the island late Friday.”