High winds cause mayhem
A small tornado ripped through a backyard as gusts hitting 115kmh blew away roofs and windows in the Central Otago town of Clyde yesterday.
Resident Colleen Kitto said her house felt like it was being hit by an earthquake as the twister hit.
‘‘The walls, windows and glassware rattled, then it spun into my yard lifting everything in sight. It ripped up our garden shed and dumped it on our diesel tank.
‘‘I screamed for my kids to get down, and then it was gone.’’
It was about 9am when strong winds picked up and flung the family’s trampoline at the house and smashed windows.
Clyde resident Jo Smail said she was hysterical when bits of the eaves of her house started to break off in the winds.
She was outside trying to shift her garden furniture as the wind roared through.
‘‘The chairs were blowing all over the place. Do you go and rescue them or head inside? I managed to throw most stuff into the shed.’’
A lamp on the patio was smashed and then bits of the eaves started breaking off the 8 to 9-year-old-house.
‘‘I was hysterical. I was on the phone to my husband. I could see wee bits breaking off and I thought the whole corner was going to come off.
‘‘It kept chipping away and a big piece fell off.’’
She felt sick and was crying, she said.
‘‘It was crazy but we’re OK here.’’
Clyde fire chief Richard Davidson said the brigade had to deal with ‘‘everything from buildings lifting off foundations, roofs lifting, fences down, trees down, caravans upturned, power lines down and fires. It’s really been a bit busy’’.
He said the gusty northwesterly winds were not unusual for this time of year ’’but this is right up there with some of the worst we’ve ever had’’.
Davidson said there had been 17 calls in the Clyde township area by about 10.30am.
There had not been any injuries he was aware of.
Crews from Alexandra and Cromwell were helping the Clyde brigade, a Fire and Emergency New Zealand spokesman said.
‘‘It’s been five to six houses in Clyde. It’s isolated to Clyde,’’ he said.
Strong winds were risking fire crews’ safety also.
‘‘The crew will turn up and they will make a call [on the safety at each scene],’’ he said.
He told people to contact emergency services if they were affected.
‘‘Drive to conditions and stay inside if you can,’’ he said.
The Crown Range road between Wanaka and Queenstown was closed at both ends due to a slip at chain bay 5.
A Queenstown Lakes District Council press release said the slip was covering one lane and more material might come down.
Travellers were urged to use the alternative route on State Highway 6.
Motorists were warned to take care in the Mackenzie District after a campervan was blown off the road.
A NZ Transport Agency spokeswoman said the vehicle crashed on State Highway 8, between Tekapo and Twizel. No-one was injured. Police also urged drivers in Central Otago and South Canterbury to take care in the adverse weather conditions.
Those with high sided and light vehicles were advised to delay travel if possible.
The Metservice issued an updated severe weather warning saying severe gale north to northwesterly winds gusting 130kmh were expected in exposed parts of the Canterbury high country, and gusting 120kmh for Marlborough and Wellington.
Strong wind gusts could damage trees, powerlines and unsecured structures, the agency said.
Metservice forecaster Cameron Coutts said gusts of about 102kmh started at 3am at Alexandra airport.
Isabella Richardson-poole, of Australia, and Matthew Baker, of Alexandra, struggle in the wind at Clyde. Behind them, waves on Lake Dunstan are whipped up by the wind.
One of the caravans toppled by strong winds in Clyde. Flying trampolines were also a danger.