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Tornado brings deaths, destruction in Auckland

UPDATE / Dec 7: Vector says it restored power to 700 customers overnight, leaving 635 still without power in the north-west Auckland suburbs of Whenuapai and Hobsonville remain without power.

Police said seven injured people had been taken to North Shore Hospital.

The names of three construction workers killed in the tornado would not be released as not all next of kin had been notified, police say.  

Dec 6: A tornado which swept through west Auckland today has killed at least two people, unconfirmed media reports say.

Some media are reporting three people have died.

Those killed are said to have been working on a building site near Hobsonville Pt.

At least seven people in other locations have minor injuries.

MetService earlier warned more tornados could hit and issued a severe thunderstorm warning for the Auckland region and Thames/Coromandel, although this has since been lifted. 

There are reports of flooding in other parts of Auckland, mainly in west Auckland.

The tornado, which struck shortly after 1pm, has brought down trees and torn roofs from houses.

Lines company Vector says people should stay away from fallen power lines and treat them as live. 

Mayor Len Brown advises people to stay indoors.

Flights affected
Auckland Airport says all flights are affected by the storm. 

Airport spokesman Richard Llewellyn says all scheduled domestic and international flights are now experiencing delays due to storm safety protocols being in place, which is restricting operations. 

Some arriving flights have been diverted to other airports. 

He says passengers should check the status of their flight either with their airline or the Auckland Airport website

Why Auckland attracts tornados
Today's tornado follows another fatal one in Albany on Auckland's North Shore in May 2011. 

Canterbury University meteorology lecturer Dr Marwan Katurji says the North Island, and especially the west coast, is more vulnerable to westerly and northerly winds which are associated with weather fronts. 

"Warm moist air from the Tasman Sea carries within it embedded thunderstorms.

"When the air hits land it interacts with the topography to create higher wind speeds and the storms get more severe. 

"The Auckland region is one of the hot spots for this activity which promotes tornados, although Taranaki is the record holder."

Dr Katurji says tornados are rare in Canterbury because it is insulated by the Southern Alps. 

Victoria University geography professor Dr James Renwick says damaging tornados are associated with severe thunderstorm activity, but analysis of weather records does not show a pattern of tornado occurrences.

"These events strike at random from time to time, but they are very localised and sporadic and are not obviously tied to trends in the large-scale climate.

"At this stage, we have no indication that tornado occurrences will become more or less frequent in future." 

PM gives condolences

Prime Minister John Key has expressed his condolences to the families of those who died as a result of the storm.

"This must have been an extremely frightening situation for many people in the local community. 

"I'd like to thank the emergency services staff, who are responding to the situation. It's critical they are able to focus on the response. 

"This extreme weather event occurred in the heart of my electorate as well as Paula Bennett's electorate. 

"I have been kept informed of the situation throughout the afternoon and am continuing to receive updates," Mr Key says. 

More by Caleb Allison and NBR staff

Comments and questions

Very sad to see that this one claimed lives....

The impact of man-made climate change continues to build.

Yeah right ... but won't it be great for the wind farms?

Eh? Human-induced climate change is almost a certainty, but these one-offs are not conclusive in any way, and every time single events are used as 'evidence', it just helps the denialists because a single event proves nothing and they know it.

The thing is that they are no longer 'one-off events' are they? What you call 'one-off events' are becoming the norm. It's pretty simple - as the atmosphere heats up it contains more energy and can take up more water. Result - worse and worse storms. The insurance industry are on to it. They take a cold-eyed look at climate change and they know what it means. It will suck billions each year out of the global economy as the cumulative damage mounts.

And comments like these continue to annoy.

I quote from the New Zealand Pilot, 1971 (13th Edition)
"Local tornadoes occur occasionally over the land."
This comment was probably put in several editions previously - the last Auckland tornado was May last year - 19 months ago. That's occasional.

Blaming a one-off weather occurrence on man-made climate change is about as reliable and sensible as blaming it on God's wrath over the homosexual marriage bill...

Ie, no sense at all.

Man-made climate change? We really do need to outlaw morons. My thoughts are with the families who will be missing loved ones tonight.

Idiot statement on such a tragic day !
I'm old enough to know that area of Auckland is prone to these things hence why it in a line through to Albany is called tornado alley. Countless occurrences have been over 70 years and longer, oral history relates so. The only difference in old times no one lived or built much out there.

A comment like that just got to be made with tongue in cheek. There's no other explanation.

And by the same logic every calm day destoys the theory of man-made climate change.

Climate-change proponents will use anything to flog their piffle.

The ice sheet surrounding the Antarctic this winter was a record. How does that stack up with global warming?

Weather happens - it's life. If you are in the wrong place at the wrong time bad (or in this case, tragic) luck.

There is no such thing as human-induced climate change.

The people of the future will look back on the likes of Kyoto and carbon tax, etc, as the kind of thinking that sent witches to stake in Salem.

The people of the future will not be looking back with any favour on the folk like you who denied what was staring them in their face.

I blame Adam and Eve.

Well, my friend's sister's husband's aunt's housekeeper's daughter said she saw Baron Samedi walking through Hobsonville with a black cat reading "An Inconvenient Truth" so it MUST be man-made.

Shout out to Auckland Civil Defence for getting a warning out over an hour before via their iPhone app. Job well done.

Yes, it must have been climate change ... some guys in a street in Hobsonville didn't pay there ETS taxes and so they got hit by tornados ... sheesh, people, ditch the mysticism, this is 2012, not 1012.

When I was a boy we used to blame these events on nuclear testing. Twas "those bombs you know...".

Why didn't the Met Service (or GNS) give us a heads up? Isn't that what scientists are paid to do?

A very tragic result to a what can only be a natural event. However, what a great opporunity for Johnny Boy to get his picture taken and be in the spotlight. He can surely now find reason to give the remedial work to Fletcher so that they can rip NZ off even further. A great PR coup from a force of nature.

What an immature blog!
Surely you are not old enough to vote?

I feel for those who have lost family and homes, best wishes from Christchurch, kia kaha.

If the looney brigade bothered to listen to the weather EXPERTS the cause of the recent weather event can be attributed to the the current phase southern oscillation, not the THEORY of man-made climate change. It ain't proven so it's still a theory. Climate change is a natural process that has gone though may phases over millennia. Get over it

For those Chicken Little AGW/CC believers.

If you live in parts of north Auckland and west Auckland you could be hit by a tornado. If you live in parts of east Auckland or south Auckland you could be hit by a tornado.

The only difference today re damage or possible loss of life if one does strike is that parts of Auckland which can and do get tornadoes have now been urbanised with new subdivisions or industrial developments. It used to be more open farmland. So if one does strike there will more damage, etc, than in previous years.

Approx 350 bodies (& 400 missing) lie dead in Philippines after a powerful typhoon struck two days ago. My colleagues didn't even bat an eyelid at the news. You don't even hear it on the radio on the way to work.

All of a sudden, the only thing that everyone in my office talks about is the Hobsonville tornado....

Actually 418 died in that storm

At this stage we have no indication that tornado occurrences will become more or less frequent in future.
However, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), whose reports are prepared by thousands of scientists, has said that in this century it is very likely that there will be an increase in frequency
of warm spells, heat waves and events of heavy rainfall and it is
likely that there will be an increase in areas affected by droughts
and an increase in the intensity of tropical cyclones.

It has also said that most of the observed increase in globally
averaged temperatures since the mid-20th century is very likely due to
the observed increase in human greenhouse gas concentrations.
The fact that so many people who deny climate change is caused by humans have responded to this article is evidence of how inconvenient it is for most people to accept what the vast majority of scientists are saying.

In response to the comment, “the ice sheet surrounding the Antarctic this winter was a record. How does that stack up with global warming?”

The sea ice in the Arctic has melted at a much faster rate than it has expanded in the Southern Ocean.
Recent research points at the depleted ozone layer over Antarctica as a possible culprit. Ozone absorbs solar energy, so a lower concentration of this molecule can lead to a cooling of the stratosphere over Antarctica. At the same time, the temperate latitudes have been warming, and the differential in temperatures has strengthened the circumpolar winds flowing over the Ross Ice Shelf.

Winds off the Ross Ice Shelf are getting stronger and stronger, and that causes the sea ice to be pushed off the coast, which generates areas of open water, polynyas.The larger the coastal polynya, the more ice it produces, because in polynyas the water is in direct contact with the very cold winter atmosphere and rapidly freezes. As the wind keeps blowing, the ice expands further to the north.

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