A Papamoa man caught up in the tornado in Albany yesterday said he watched trampolines and roofing iron fly through the air before running for safety in the smallest room he could find.
Tradestaff northern operations manager Grant Kedian was conducting a health and safety meeting at the firm's Albany branch in Bush Rd when he looked out the window and saw the 200m-wide tornado headed across the valley towards him. "At first we didn't realise what we were actually looking at."
He went outside for a closer look and said the scene on the street was like something out of the movies.
"It just looked like a huge big funnel. There was a bit of a roar with all the debris getting sucked up."
He said pieces of roofing iron looked like birds as the tornado moved nearer.
"You had to focus on them to realise what you were actually looking at."
Realising the tornado was headed straight for them, the group of four ran for cover back inside the building, gathering in a bathroom, away from the glass windows and where there were more joists per square metre.
"We went into the smallest room and took cover. We were lucky that it just missed us. It was pretty nerve-racking to be fair," he said.
Mr Kedian said while it was "amazing" to see the tornado close up, it was not something he wanted to see again.
"It was really scary, I've got to say."
Twister not area's first
Yesterday's tornado, which killed at least one person in the Auckland North Shore suburb of Albany, is the second fatal twister to hit the area in 20 years.
In May 1991, a tornado hit Albany, lifting roofing iron from homes and destroying a small church on the southwestern side of the suburb.
One man died when debris spread by the tornado hit him while he was driving a bulldozer.
Damage-causing tornadoes have a return period of about two or three years in Auckland and other previous incidents have included damage to buildings and power lines.
One of New Zealand's worst tornadoes was at Frankton, near Hamilton, in August 1948, when three people were killed.
Seven people were badly injured and damage to property was heavy. - NZPA