“It felt like an explosion” – tornado rips Levin
Homes torn in two and debris everywhere, a neighborhood in Levin “looks like a bomb exploded” after a tornado ripped through the Lower North Island town.
It was struck by a tornado at 6:30 a.m. “causing havoc, downing trees, impacting power lines and ripping roofs off,” Horowhenua District Council said in a statement.
The Civil Protection Emergency Management Incident Management Team has been called in to assist the emergency services.
Police, fire and emergency, St John, contractors and arborists were all in action.
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St John received a call about the tornado at 6:43 a.m. An ambulance responded to the scene and treated and transported a patient to Palmerston North Hospital with minor injuries.
Horowhenua District Council said in a statement that one person suffered minor injuries from broken glass.
Cambridge St was closed between Liverpool and Bath streets, as well as Oxford, Tawa and Wilton St, Gladstone Rd, Mako Mako Rd, Winchester St, Tararua Rd, Parker St and Sterling St.
Diversions were in place for State Highway 1 traffic in both directions.
A number of power lines were down or damaged on Parker Ave, Victoria St, Tawa St, George St, Adkin Ave, Skye St, Cambridge Place and Mako Mako Rd.
According to Electra, there were 766 homes or businesses without power in Horowhenua and Kāpiti.
Sign craftsman Jay Dahya was driving through Levin from Wellington to Palmerston North on Friday morning and couldn’t believe the damage on Cambridge St.
He believed there had been a gas explosion as houses were destroyed and debris covered the area.
“I’ve never seen anything like it, I honestly thought there was a huge explosion. It was absolutely shocking.
A woman who did not want to be named was watching the cleanup at several properties in Winchester St.
She said she felt sorry for those affected as the area was known to have a poorer population and the damage was devastating.
“My heart just goes out to them, the damage here is unbelievable. Where will they go?”
MetService duty meteorologist Lewis Ferris said Levin experienced a brief and intense event, and the area is not yet fully recovered.
There was still a severe thunderstorm watch in place covering much of the western North Island, which could see 2cm hailstones and wind gusts up to 120km/h.
There was a second band of thunderstorms approaching, and the watch was supposed to be up until 11:00 a.m.
Craig Jones, foreman at Paul Ireland Digger Hire, said his team was cleaning up.
Two trucks and a backhoe/loader were clearing Oxford Street of debris.
“I think the national road will be fully cleared in about an hour,” he said at 11:12 a.m.
“Our depot was fine and my house was fine but the neighbors and a few other people on the road and a few other people lost their roofs.”
Janine Arnold of Miter 10 Levin said they were offering to deliver free tarps to anyone whose home was damaged as a result of the storm.
It was a “bit of goodwill” and they had already received phone calls from people willing to accept the offer.
St Joseph’s School, Levin School, Horowhenua Middle School, Ōhau School, Levin Middle School and Learning Adventures Early Years Center were closed while the council assessed the damage.
State Road 1 in Levin is closed and motorists are urged to delay their journey or use an alternate route.
The road will be closed between Durham St and Supercheap Auto, after a strong smell of petrol was reported in the area.
Police said in a statement that officers would reassure the community and help with the cleanup.
“We are aware of a tornado that occurred in Levin this morning. We are also aware of surface flooding and downed power lines following the event.
Motorists were urged to take care, particularly across Ōhau, as ice on the roads made the surface slippery.
Ōtaki MP Terisa Ngobi’s office on Oxford St was among the most damaged, with the tornado destroying the rear of the building on South Lane.
She was on the scene to assess the damage and help the residents of Levin.
“We tell people not to travel on the roads unless absolutely necessary.
“There is a lot of flood water on the detour of State Highway 1 and traffic is pushing that flood water down the streets and towards people’s cars and homes.
“We therefore ask the inhabitants not to travel by car if they can help him.”
City Honda Horowhenua and Stihl Shop Levin manager Wayne McKinlay arrived to the carnage outside his Oxford St.
“The modern front of the store is fine, but the back wall is strapped down and ready to fall.
“It ripped out the back walls of neighboring buildings.”
His staff came out with chainsaws cutting down fallen trees at Adventure Park.
“We still have power and we can still trade. We are so lucky because if he hadn’t turned away from us at the last minute, we would have had him.”
At the front of the store the only damage was a broken sign and the large Stihl chainsaw on the roof had been knocked down.
The National Emergency Management Agency was monitoring the situation, but a spokesperson said the response was being handled locally at this stage. No request for national support has been received so far.
Horowhenua District Council said fire and emergency services had activated an urban search and rescue team, which would work alongside the council’s construction team to assess damaged or closed roads and streets.
Shannon and Tokomaru water treatment plants were offline due to turbidity. Water storage capacity was sufficient, but as a precaution tankers had been activated for Tokomaru.
The Palmerston North City Council emergency rescue team was deployed to help and Rangitīkei District Council offered to help capture drone footage, to understand the extent of the damage.
The Te Takeretanga-o-kura-hau-pō community center is closed for the day.