Weather: Tornado rips through far North

A tornado ripped through houses in the far north on Tuesday, damaging at least 20 houses.

New Zealanders were warned to expect heavy rain, powercuts and dangerous waves as severe weather slammed the country on Wednesday, with more wild weather on the way on Thursday.

Electricity line companies, including Vector, WEL Networks, and Top Energy around the upper North Island were on alert and warned the public to be aware of potential hazards caused by the weather.

Please refresh the page for the latest live updates.

8:45pm - Another front moves up the country

The front which battered the country will move away on Wednesday but another is expected on Thursday, leading to further rain, wind and hail throughout New Zealand.

8:35pm - Prepare the extra blankets

MetService says it's going to be another cold night in the South Island with most centres expecting overnight lows of 0C or colder.

The coldest centres are Christchurch and Timaru - both dropping to -3C overnight Wednesdsay.

In the North Island, Masterton has been told to expect -1C overnight while Taupo will drop to 1C.

7:30pm - Snow to return to the south

Snow showers are expected in parts of Canterbury, Otago, and Southland overnight Wendesday, MetService says.

Road snowfall warnings are in place for the Lindis Pass (State Highway 8), Milford Rd (SH94) and Crown Range Rd. The North Island's Desert Rd (SH1) can also expect snow showers on Thursday morning.

6:55pm - More strong winds on the way

MetService says between 10pm Wednesday and 3am Thursday, west to southwest winds may approach severe gale in exposed places in Northland.

In Auckland, between 9pm Wednesday and 6pm Thursday, west to southwest winds may approach severe gale in exposed places. MetService also warns of severe southwesterly gales for the Coromandel Peninsula and northern Waikato during the same time period.

Taranaki, the Kaikoura Coast, Wairarapa and Kapiti are also warned of severe gales from 5pm Wednesday until 1am Thursday.

6:20pm - Power outages hit Auckland

Power authority Vector said it experienced "more power outages than usual".

"Once we have assessed the situation, we will provide an update," Vector said on its website.

"Low-hanging or downed power lines should be considered live at all times. Please stay at least 10m away and call 111."

6:10pm - Photos capture size of tornadoes

The true size of the Far North tornadoes which struck the region earlier in the day were captured in stunning images by locals.

5:35pm - Tornado damage 'significant', mayor says 

Far North Mayor John Carter says the damage caused by the tornado is "significant".

"There's three homes that are unable to be occupied currently and will be some days before people can shift back in," he says.

"The houses that were significant - there's broken windows, shards of glass across the rooms of where the windows were broken. If anyone had been inside they would have been seriously hurt. Luckily that didn't happen."

5:20pm - More lightning strikes approaching Auckland

More lightning strikes are on the way for Auckland from the Tasman Sea.

Heavy strikes have already blasted the Sky Tower earlier in the day.

5:00pm - Severe thunderstorm watch issued for Bay of Plenty

A severe thunderstorm watch has been issued for the Bay of Plenty.

"A front with embedded thunderstorms is currently moving through the Bay of Plenty and Rotorua, producing very heavy rain and strong wind gusts," MetService says.

"There is also a moderate risk some of these thunderstorms could become SEVERE this afternoon and early evening as the thunderstorms continue moving eastwards, bringing damaging winds with gusts greater than 110km/h.

"Wind gusts of this strength can cause some structural damage, including trees and power lines, and may make driving hazardous."

4:45pm - Over 2000 lightning strikes smash New Zealand

NIWA reports there have been 36,875 lightning strikes between Australia and New Zealand since Monday morning. Over 2000 of these have been above New Zealand itself.

"Over 2000 lightning strikes in the New Zealand area so far today, the vast majority over the upper North Island," MetService says.

"An intense band has just moved through Tauranga and now continues east."

3:45pm - Dramatic video shows lightning strike on Auckland's Sky Tower

Auckland's iconic Sky Tower was struck by lightning during Wednesday's thunderstorm.

Local man Andrew Stanley filmed the dramatic weather moment from College Hill. As dark clouds swirl over the skyline, a bolt of lightning snakes down from the heavens and hits the very tip of the country's tallest building.

3:15pm - Storm hits Bay of Plenty

"A front with an active line of thunderstorms has cleared Auckland and is now moving across the Bay of Plenty," MetService says.

2:50pm - Storm hits Wellington

The severe weather system has made its way to Wellington

"Raining in the Capital with the southerly wind starting to pick up," MetService tweeted.

NZTA Wellington warns drivers to take care as conditions worsen.

"Heavy rain and strong winds are forecast to hit this afternoon and continue throughout peak traffic hours this evening," it tweeted.

"Slow down, increase your following distances and drive to the conditions."

2:25pm - Severe weather causes flight disruption

Flights in the North Island are being disrupted as severe weather strikes around the country.

"We have had a few flight cancellations due to adverse weather conditions in Auckland and Wellington," a spokesperson for Air NZ tweeted.

"We are working as quickly as possible to rebook customers onto other services."

"Customers who no longer need to travel automatically have the option to transfer their booking to another date or hold the fare value in credit for up to 12 months toward future travel without the need to advise our contact centre today," Air NZ says.

"With poor weather forecast throughout the North Island, the airline is also recommending all customers booked to travel to or from a North Island port check the arrivals and departure page on the Air New Zealand website for their flight status."

2:00pm - Christchurch shivers on near-freezing temperatures

Christchurch is shivering on near-freezing temperatures on Wednesday afternoon.

"The temperature in some suburbs is just 2C as cold air is trapped under cloud," WeatherWatch says.

"The high today was supposed to be 9C and while some parts of the city are closer to that, the majority are much colder."

1:30pm -  Flooding hits Auckland

Heavy downpours have caused localised flooding across Auckland.

The NZTA closed the right northbound lane just after the Upper Harbour Highway due to large amounts of water on the road.

Urban geographer ben Ross reports flooding on Old Wairoa Road, Papakura, is 30cm high.

1:15pm - Incredible footage shows lightning over Auckland

12:55pm - Lightning rattles Auckland

Heavy downpours and thunderstorms are rocking Auckland on Wednesday afternoon.

A live lightning trackers shows over 50 lightning events over the past 30 minutes.

"Main burst of downpours now moving in with isolated thunder," WeatherWatch warns.

"Rumbles about Auckland!" NIWA tweeted. "Time to head indoors."

1:40pm - Search teams rush to Far North homes after tornado

Urban search and rescue teams are rushing to the Far North homes damaged by the tornado.

At least 10 homes were struck by the severe weather event, which flipped caravans and tore off roofs.

Civil Defence and police are already at the scene assessing the damage.

12:25pm - Strong winds to cause flight delays in Wellington

Strong winds are expected to cause flight delays in and out of Wellington today, Air NZ warns.

"While flights are currently scheduled to depart on time, the airline is expecting weather conditions to deteriorate and cause disruption to flights later today," a spokesperson says.

"Customers who no longer need to travel automatically have the option to transfer their booking to another date or hold the fare value in credit for up to 12 months toward future travel without the need to advise our contact centre today.

"With poor weather forecast throughout the North Island, the airline is also recommending all customers booked to travel to or from a North Island port check the arrivals and departure page on the Air New Zealand website for their flight status."

12:10pm - Coopers Beach resident describes tornado experience

Coopers Beach resident Luke McDonald has described what it was like as a tornado tore through nearby houses an hour ago.

"Just extreme weather, the rain was horizontal against our workshop, building shaking," he told Newshub.

"The damage to all the houses is not far from our workshop, we can see all the roofs which have been ripped off."

11:45am - Heavy rain, thunderstorms move towards Auckland

Auckland is in the firing line as heavy rain and thunderstorms move towards the city.

"We have some heavy afternoon downpours developing with isolated thunder," WeatherWatch says on Twitter.

A post by MetService shows the storm system on its way.

11:30am - Tornado strikes Far North

At least 10 houses have been damaged by a tornado in the Far North.

Fire and Emergency is responding to the severe weather event at Coopers Beach.

A spokesperson told Newshub ambulances are being sent as a precaution.

Images posted to social media show the roof ripped off a house.

"Had my neighbour calling asking if we ok! She said a TORNADO had flipped her caravan and pulled down some trees!" one local resident posted to Facebook.

A photo of the damage.
A photo of the damage. Photo credit: Newshub

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