Severe weather, surface flooding, possible tornado hits Thames, Coromandel

Concrete benches shifted yards away, seagulls were tossed in the wind, windows rattled and planks of wood flew into the air as a possible tornado ripped through the Thames.

Surface flooding has been reported in the Hauraki Plains and western areas of the Coromandel Peninsula, while a severe weather warning has been issued for the Coromandel and Bay of Plenty.

MetService said a low-pressure system west of the North Island is expected to move eastwards over New Zealand today, bringing rain to the central and northern regions.

The heaviest rain is expected over the Coromandel Peninsula, the Bay of Plenty and the Tasman District. A warning is now in place for the eastern Bay of Plenty.

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There is also a severe thunderstorm warning for Bay of Plenty, Rotorua and Gisborne.

A possible tornado hit the Thames around 9am.

“My windows are rattling like they were at a rave in the 90s,” one Thames resident commented on Facebook.

A fellow resident said she had seen seagulls, pigeons and sparrows fluttering in the wind.

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“I saw the clouds coming towards the ground and everything swirling so fast,” another resident reported.

“It happened so quickly. It drove me absolutely crazy.”

More than 500 properties in Thames are now without power.

PowerCo’s online outage map reported that 572 properties were affected by an unplanned outage at approximately 7:57 a.m.

An on-site investigation is being conducted, with field personnel present.

Power in the city is expected to be operational again around noon.

Metservice meteorologist Ngaire Wotherstoon said the service had not yet confirmed a tornado had occurred in the Thames, but that “the ingredients” for such an event were in place.

“We are in quite a conversion situation at the moment,” Wotherstoon told the newspaper Waikato Herald.

“There is a lot of sublimity in the atmosphere. Thunderstorm warnings are in place and there is a significant line of thunderstorms that have passed through the Thames, across the Coromandel Peninsula and Whitianga.

Wotherstoon said it was “certainly possible” a tornado had occurred.

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