A chimney toppled, a barbecue landed on a rooftop and a vacant caravan was turned on its side when a mini-tornado ripped through Raglan West about noon last Sunday, leaving residents shaken but relieved the next day that nobody was hurt by the twister.

“We can laugh about it now,” said Sheryl Rangiawha who co-owns Palm Beach Motel with husband Don, “but we copped quite a bit (too).”
She told the Chronicle their large steel-framed pergola was shunted across the front lawn and snapped nine yuccas before being picked up and smashing through fencing and decking at their house and then through the window of an adjacent motel unit.

A big pohutakawa tree edging the inner harbour was also uprooted, three picnic tables “levelled” and outdoor umbrellas smashed.
“It was pretty scary watching it all happen,” she said.

She reckoned the guests were asking tongue-in-cheek on Monday what “excitement” they could expect next.
Police said the tornado apparently started in Goodare Road — a small lane off Opotoru Road — where it flipped a caravan on its side before ripping through the grounds of the motel up the way and travelling across Wainui Road to Tahuna Avenue.

That’s where resident Willie Barlow, who’d been listening to music on his headphones while his six-year-old grandson watched telly, reckons all hell broke loose. “There was a crash and everything started to happen simultaneously … what chaos!”

In all his 70 years he’d never heard anything like it, he said. The chimney of his house toppled, panels were torn from the side of his garage, his ‘lullaby’ swing flew past the window “at a zillion miles per hour”, another window blew out and a tree on his front lawn was ripped apart by the force.

“I didn’t know what the hell was happening!”

The tornado then blew over a greenhouse next door, police said, and around the corner in Taipari Avenue a tree fell on a car while its owner was attending a service at Raglan Community Church. The car had its back window smashed but was able to be driven away after a nearby resident, builder Gordon Jowsey, cut the tree away.

Close by on Nihinihi Avenue a barbecue with its gas bottle attached was picked up in the whirlwind and dumped high on a roof. The twister left a “path of debris” from road cones, fencing and branches to recycling bins and their contents, police reported.

Raglan Fire Service deputy chief Frank Turner told the Chronicle both fire trucks were on the job dealing with the flipped caravan, fallen trees and the barbecue which had taken flight.

“One call became three,” he said. But the firefighters didn’t have far to go, he added, as they were all downtown at the fire station anyway doing a refresher first aid course.

The twister is not a first for Raglan as Frank, a fire service veteran, recalls another some years ago at Lorenzen Bay.
Police confirmed they’d had no reports of any injuries from Sunday’s tornado.

Edith Symes