As it happened: Tornado terror leaves trail of devastation

New Zealand is being lashed by violent thunderstorms and lightning as severe weather wreaks havoc across the country on Tuesday.

Click here for Wednesday's live updates on the severe weather battering the country

Severe winds with gusts up to 110km/h have been forecast to continue as the front moves north and east to hit most of the country.

Thunderstorms with wind gusts that could potentially damage trees, power lines and unsecured structures are forecast to hit on a broad front from Wellington through Hawke's Bay and Auckland into Northland.

What you need to know:

  • Auckland is experiencing extremely strong winds
  • At lease one report of people trapped in cars or houses in Auckland
  • Vector working round the clock to restore power
  • Flights in and out of Auckland Airport delayed or turned away
  • Emergency services get 1350 calls in three hours
  • A tornado has damaged houses in south Taranaki
  • Over 1000 properties without electricity in Taranaki region
  • Schools have been closed around New Zealand
  • A heavy snow warning has been lifted in Canterbury

This live updates article has now concluded.

11:58pm - More damages discovered across Auckland

Social media users continue to post the damage the winds have caused online.

11:47pm - 1350 emergency calls in three hours

Damages caused by the strong winds and rain has seen emergency services inundated with calls - 1350 in three hours, in fact.

Toppling trees and powerlines, destroyed roofs, flooding and roads scattered with debris are among the reasons people have called, a press release says.

"Because of the sheer volume of the calls, some people calling us, whether to report damage or downed trees, may experience some delays, but we are working as hard as we can to respond as fast as possible," National Manager for Communication Centres Gavin Travers says.

11:35pm - Vector crews to work overnight to restore power

Vector is advising its customers of the widespread outages across Auckland due to the intensity of the strong winds and heavy rain this evening.

Many of their response crews will be working through the night to respond to the reported faults and outages throughout the region, it said.

Vector is reminding people that all fallen powerlines should be treated as live, and people should avoid going near them at all costs.

11:24pm - So close but so far for those flying to Auckland

Auckland Airport has been left somewhat uninhabitable thanks to the storm, with debris scattered across the runway and fierce winds making it impossible to fly in or out there.

One passenger on flight JQ260 from Christchurch to Auckland has revealed just how close they got - just north of Raglan - before being turned away.

The flight was returned to Christchurch, and passengers told to return the following morning, Twitter user Alex Gilbert said.

11:18pm - Not the best advert for tiny houses...

An Auckland-based tiny home owner has gone outside to survey the damage done to her property.

It's not pretty, she discovers - solar powers and a turbine are down, and their shed has been ripped open.

"It's all turning to shit at the tiny household!" she laments.

11:12pm - More power outages across Auckland

Vector's power outage map showed 16 outages about an hour ago.

Now, there are close to 40 - further confirming anecdotal reports from social media users.

11:05pm - Trees continue to topple onto homes

The Fire Service revealed it's answered more than 170 calls in the upper North Island as people report damage caused by the storm.

Among the seemingly countless cases, a tree has fallen through the roof of houses in the North Shore suburbs of Stanley Point and Birkdale.

A pair of trees has also fallen onto a Massey home, they say.

11:01pm - Twenty fire trucks deal to massive Thames fire

Fire crews have revealed they are currently dealing with "a massive blaze" at a mill in Thames.

The Fire Service was called to the inferno on Paeroa Kopu Road in Matatoki about 9:20pm. 

About 20 fire trucks and appliances are responding. It's not clear whether the fire is weather-related.

10:53pm - Auckland Mayor urges citizens to stay safe

Mayor Phil Goff is urging residents to avoid driving if possible.

10:45pm - Fallen trees have left at least another two people trapped in Auckland.

Emergency services have been alerted to one in the western suburb of Swanson, and one in eastern suburb of Shelly Park.

In both cases it's been caused by trees collapsing on to houses.

Among the other cases emergency services are dealing with is a flipped car in Kerikeri and a garage collapse in Beach Haven.

There is also a report of a tree on fire due to downed powerlines in the central suburb of Meadowbank.

10:33pm - Video shows huge electrical flashes in Auckland

Social media user Dan de Almeida has shared video of the storm's effect on Auckland - featuring huge flashes of light.

Meanwhile Tina Plunkett captured video of trains operating as sparks fly.

10:20pm - Roof lifted off a house in Mt Albert

Images on social media show the debris from most of the roof ripped from a house in Mt Albert littered across a neighbouring property.

Another Twitter user claims at least one more roof has flown off houses on Auckland's Ponsonby Rd.

10:14pm - Power outages across Auckland

Power is out in a number of suburbs, with central Auckland appearing to be the worst hit area.

Outages have been reported in Epsom, Mt Albert, Epsom, Kingseat, Waiau Pa, Waiuku, Glenbrook, Greenhithe, Dairy Flat, Mt Eden, Three Kings, Otahuhu, Westmere, Titirangi, Kumeu, Manukau Heads, Awhitu and Westmere.

9:59pm - Drivers urged to be cautious on Auckland Harbour Bridge

A speed limit of 30km/h has been implemented.

9:48pm - Person trapped after tree falls on car in Auckland

A person has been left trapped after a tree collapsed onto their vehicle in the central Auckland suburb of Kingsland.

Emergency services are on the scene.

A police spokesperson says an ambulance was required.

9:43pm - Powerlines sparking heavily outside Newshub HQ

Damaged power lines have caused large sparks to fly outside the Mediaworks TV building in Eden Terrace, Auckland.

9:35pm - All flights into Auckland Airport have been diverted

All flights out of Auckland Airport have been cancelled and the ones that were scheduled to arrive have been diverted. 

9:23pm -100km/h hour gusts hit Auckland

According to NIWA, the heaviest gust of wind recorded through to 9pm was 102.6km/h. Higher gusts are expected to come through tonight.

9:10pm - Flights are having a hard time landing in Auckland due to the winds

Two flights from Sydney and one from Wellington are looking elsewhere due to the weather.

8:53pm - Power outages across Auckland

Vector is reporting there are 16 unplanned power outages in Auckland, mostly in the north-west.

8:34pm - Red Cross headed to National Park

Five members of the organisation's Whanganui-based Disaster Welfare and Support Team will be helping Civil Defence following Tuesday morning's tornado.

7:39pm - Sun sets as more stormy weather rolls in

Images posted to social media by NIWA show menacing clouds approaching Auckland city.

5:34pm - Temperatures dropping sharply across the country

Chilly weather is in store across the country, with NIWA forecasting no double-digit temperatures overnight.

Queenstown is forecast to be the chilliest at -1degC, while the upper North Island can expect 9degC - balmy conditions by comparison.

Taranaki, where more than 1000 households are expected to spend the night without power, will hit 7degC.

5:14pm - More than 1000 to remain without power overnight in Taranaki

Powerco network operations manager Phil Marsh says they have been working hard to restore power after originally having over 12,000 homes cut off.

"About 3000 were still without power at 4:30pm, but we hope to get that down to about 1300 tonight," he said.

"Unfortunately there will be some without power overnight, and work will begin at first light Wednesday to continue restoration work."

About 12,000 customers lost power initially, but they were able to reconnect more than 9000 during the day. Parts of the Taranaki network that have been hard hit.

According to Mr Marsh, numerous power poles remain down and others are currently leaning dangerously.

4:54pm - Power restored to homes in National Park Village

Ruapehu District Council said some may have to remain without power overnight.

All those who are unable to stay in their homes overnight have been accommodated and a cordon remains in place around approximately 40 properties.

The USAR team are hoping to complete their assessment by 6pm.

Security guards supported by police will stay at the cordon overnight to maintain it and protect the area.

4:41pm - Heavy snow warning lifted in Canterbury

The warning has been lifted in the Canterbury plains and high country. Snow showers are expected to persist tonight but are unlikely to cause a significant amount of snow.

4:12pm - NIWA warns of damage wind could do in Auckland tonight

Auckland residents are being warned of severe wind gusts of over 110 km/h from 7pm to 11pm on Tuesday evening.

NIWA warns such high winds can cause structural damage to properties, as well as power outages and falling trees.

3:45pm - Multiple Auckland ferry sailings cancelled

So far Auckland Transport has cancelled all ferry sailings to West Harbour, as well as the 2:30pm trip to Half Moon Bay.

Northcote Point wharf has also been closed until further notice.

Buses have been arranged to replace all cancelled services, but Auckland Transport warns there may be limited space on the 4:40pm bus to West Harbour.

3:30pm - West Coast town running on generators

600 homes in the Karamea township on the West Coast are running off a generator after power was lost around 1pm.

Buller Electricity Limited chief executive Eamon Ginley told Newshub “basically the whole of the Karamea community” is affected.

He hoped people could be back on mains power tomorrow. 

Twenty-two homes in Dirty Mary’s Creek between Westport and Charleston are also without power because of fallen pine trees.

3:17pm - Sounds Air flights out of West Coast cancelled

Buller Civil Defence says all flights out of the region have been called off for the day.

Severe weather conditions are not expected to ease until 8pm in both Buller and Wellington.

2:45pm - Central North Island roads affected by downed power lines, surface flooding and trees

Police say they are unaware of any serious injuries due to the weather at this stage.

Some local roads have been closed and motorists have been asked to delay any non-essential travel.

2:25pm - Deep low expected to bring more strong winds to North Island

The low, currently sitting to the east of Taranaki, is expected to move across the North Island this evening.

2:08pm - All Cook Strait ferry crossings have been cancelled due to the weather.

Radio New Zealand reports no further sailings will be made on Tuesday due to the stormy weather.

1:47pm - Another storm headed towards the North Island

NIWA says a spinning ball of energy will bring strong winds to the upper North Island on Tuesday evening, while Antarctic air is headed northward to the South Island.

12:55pm - Wild weather whips across Hauraki Gulf

Strong winds are tearing across Auckland, and Instagram user @boatdogs captured the driving rain.

12:35pm - Dangerous cloud-to-ground lightning strikes Auckland

The thunderstorms have arrived in Auckland, bringing with them torrential rain and "dangerous cloud-to-ground lightning".

NIWA warns Aucklanders to take care.

"When thunder roars, head indoors!" it says. 

12:15pm - Roof ripped from house by strong winds

A roof has been ripped off a house by strong winds near Taranaki.

Photos show the top of the house in Rahotu completely exposed.

As it happened: Tornado terror leaves trail of devastation
Photo credit: Supplied / Chris Murray

12:10pm - Boaties warned to stay in today

MetService is warning boaties to be careful with thunderstorms slamming Auckland's west coast.

"Not a great day to be out there," the weather forecaster says.

"Westerlies pick up later, with gusts of 120km/h this evening so maybe take a rain check today."

12:00pm - Truckie's terrifying escape from tornado

A truckie who drove straight through the Taranaki tornado says he feels like the luckiest man alive.

Video of him driving down the road which is being lashed by wind, rain and rogue power lines is circulating online.

"Once the trees started snapping and the branch came down on the road, I thought shit. I've got to get out of here," Rick Field told More FM

"Considering the lines were on the road, I think that's what freaked me out the most. Because it was pretty close.

"Once that rain started coming sideways I thought there's a tornado somewhere. I didn't know where it was but yep… walked straight into it."

Rick Field drove through the tornado.
Rick Field drove through the tornado. Photo credit: Facebook / Rick Field

11:45am - Multiple schools closed

Ten schools and four early childhood education centres have been closed as the winter storm works its way across the country.

The Ministry of Education recommends parents get in contact with schools to check on closures both today and tomorrow.

The closed schools are:

  • Opunake High School
  • South Westland Area School
  • Kaponga School
  • Opunake School
  • Pembroke School
  • St Joseph's School, Hawera
  • St Joseph's School, Opunake
  • Kakaramea School
  • Methven School
  • Springfield School
  • Methven Pre-school Learning & Child Care Centre
  • Maxwell and Districts Kindergarten
  • Opunake Communities Kindergarten Incorporated
  • Te Kōhanga Reo o Te Namu

11:40am - House partially destroyed by tornado

A house has been partially destroyed in National Park after a tornado barrelled through.

Photos show part of the wooden house in pieces scattered across the lawn.

As it happened: Tornado terror leaves trail of devastation
Photo credit: Supplied / Ruapehu District Council

11:37am - Students and staff stuck on Tongariro crossing

A group of students and staff have been trapped by bad weather on National Park's Tongariro Crossing.

Albany Senior High School posted to Twitter saying the group is safe - but stuck for at least the day.

"They have asked us to reassure everyone that they have hunkered down in their hut for the day and they are fine," a spokesperson for the school wrote.

11:15am - Urban Search and Rescue Team deployed after tornado

Fire and Emergency New Zealand is responding to several callouts after a tornado and strong winds tore through parts of Taranaki and Ruapehu.

At least half a dozen houses have lost their roofs in a Tornado in Rahotu. Crews are also responding to several calls about downed power lines and toppled trees in the area.

Meanwhile, several homes have been damaged by wind in National Park Village in Ruapehu. Three crews are at the scene.

Two crews are on their way from Whanganui. An Urban Search and Rescue Team has also been deployed.

11:00am - Auckland next in firing line

MetService warns Auckland is next to be hit by the lightning.

"A trough which produced close to 6000 lightning strikes over the Taranaki region between 7-9am is about to head over Auckland and much of the upper North Island," it says on Twitter.

"This squall line is likely a period of heavy rain along with gusts of up to 110km/h."

MetService warns wind gusts this strong can damage trees and power lines and may make driving hazardous.

10:40am - NIWA issues thunderstorm update

"Several clusters of thunderstorms across the North Island," NIWA's meteorologists say on Twitter.

  • Several offshore of Auckland/Northland
  • Tongariro National Park
  • Whanganui National Park
  • Between Rotorua and Taupo

10:15am - Canterbury road closures announced

"SH67 between Westport and Karamea is currently closed due to a shed roof iron lifting near Garveys Rd," the New Zealand Transport Authority says.

"Motorists are advised to follow signed detour."

10:10am - MetService warns of worse gales

"Gales for #Auckland this afternoon and evening," MetService says on Twitter.

"A low pressure brings strong, gusty winds especially to Auckland, Waikato and the Coromandel later today. Gusts of 120km/h possible. Tie loose objects down."

10:00am - South Island braces itself for snow

Further down the country, the freezing blast from Antarctica has brought snowfall.

At Arthur's Pass, Newshub reporter Thomas Mead warns it's time to give up on summer and start bracing yourselves for winter.

"It's going to get even colder tonight, -6degC forecast, and the snow could go right through till 2am tomorrow so look out for that," he says.

It's likely to slow traffic in the alpine passes and some motorists have already been told to use their chains.

MetService warns there could be as much as 40cm of snow to fall above 700m in the Canterbury high country.

09:50 - Tornado hits Ruapehu

A tornado has just hit the National Park village in Ruapehu, leaving a trail of devastation in its wake.

"Ruapehu civil defence and other response agencies are responding to a tornado in National Park Village," says Ruapehu District Council CEO Clive Manley.

"There are widespread reports of damage including to houses having lost roofs."

09:30am - School closed around New Zealand

Schools are closing around the country as the bad weather cuts off power and brings travel to a stand-still.

The Taranaki region's Opunake High School has been closed due to the power cut.

"We have been informed electricity will not be restored until 12pm," it says on Facebook.

"Opunake High School closed, no buses running."

Canterbury's Springfield School has also closed due to the snow.

09:20am - Mass power outages across Taranaki

Over 12,000 properties across Taranaki have been cut off from power, PowerCo reports.

Lightning strikes are causing outages, while tornadoes have torn down power poles.

09:15am - Lightning strikes surge over country

MetService says it has counted "4500 lightning strikes over Taranaki in the last hour!"

Images posted to social media show the strikes tearing through the air, including one strike which impaled a trampoline.

09:10am - Heavy snow warning for Canterbury

MetService warns Canterbury and the Kaikoura Ranges can expect snow above 400m and below 300m in some places.

Overnight, a blanket of more than 75cm of snow fell in much of the Canterbury plains and Mackenzie High Country, sending temperatures plummeting, WeatherWatch says.

Highs of just 9degC are expected in Christchurch and Dunedin, while snow and a frigid 8degC is forecast for Queenstown.

09:00am - Images show tornado damage

Photos posted to social media show the damage caused by the tornado. Power poles have been torn down, and trees left lying across the road.

08:50am - Tornado damages houses

A number of homes have been damaged by a tornado in south Taranaki.

Fire communications says it struck Rahotu about 7:30am.

It's unknown at this stage just how many homes have been damaged, or how bad it is.