A damaging tornado hit the town of Levin, New Zealand’s North Island on May 20, 2022, causing widespread damage and injuring several people. New Zealand’s Met Service recorded a wind gust of 140 km/h (86 mph) in the town. However, at the time of press, it was still not able to determine whether it was indeed a tornado that caused the damage, or a thunderstorm collapsing on itself.
According to the Horowhenua District Council, the tornado hit at approximately 06:30 LT, damaging between 30 and 50 homes, downing power lines and trees, and blocking roads.
“Drone footage shows approximately 30 – 50 houses have suffered damage, with further damage to many more fences and other property,” the Council said.
In an update posted at 14:30 LT, it noted that 6 properties have been severely damaged, 8 were moderately damaged, and 11 had minimal damage.
Fire and Emergency have activated an urban search and rescue team which will search the damaged streets and assess the damage alongside the Council.1
Some people have received minor injuries from broken glass and residents have been told to avoid non-essential travel, with some streets and schools closed.
Horowhenua District Mayor Bernie Wanden told Checkpoint he had seen a lot of devastation through Levin after the storm.2
“We’ve got at least 10 homes that are uninhabitable tonight. And obviously we’re finding alternative accommodation for them. Plus, there’s about 30 more that have sustained some significant damage, but we believe that they are still okay to be lived in at the moment,” he said.
Wanden added the storm was unexpected. “A very random occurrence for our town. We never usually experienced anything like this so and it’s come completely out of the blue.”
Metservice said it recorded a wind gust of 140 km/h (86 mph) in the town this morning and it is asking anyone with footage of the weather event to contact them so it can determine whether it was indeed a tornado, or a thunderstorm collapsing in on itself.3
The tornado was spawned by severe thunderstorms that left widespread damage across North Island and produced around 12 000 lightning strikes in 6 hours to 11:30 LT.
A woman was trapped under an 80-year-old Pin Oak tree in the town of Cambridge, Waipa District near Hamilton, and was taken to a hospital around 10:00 LT where she later died.
Waipa District Council spokesperson Sally Sheedy said locals had described seeing a series of mini tornados that tore down trees and power lines in the town at around the same time.
Big hail, squally winds, and downpours have been witnessed in a few areas, the New Zealand Met Service said, adding that unsettled weather is predicted to remain over the country this weekend.
Residents are urged to keep up with the latest forecasts if making plans.
1 Weather: Mini-tornado rips through Levin, as cold snap hits – NZ Herald – May 20, 2022
2 Levin tornado: Government puts $100k into relief fund – RNZ – May 20, 2022
3 Damage to roads, powerlines after tornado rips through Levin – RNZ – May 20, 2022
Featured image credit: Horowhenua District Council
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