Tornado Hits Our Suburb
Thursday 6 December was going to be a busy day for us. My youngest son and I had just returned home after assisting my sick daughter for a short period. I’d planned to visit our nearest shopping centre after we’d had a quick bite of lunch as my son was going to help at a Church working bee. I’d get to finish off my Christmas shopping, I’d decided.
However nature, in the guise of a freak tornado, changed all that.The black clouds colouring the western sky didn’t just drop a deluge of rain we’d expected. Around 12.45pm we stood in our conservatory and watched the trees in our front section bending almost double, as branches and plant debris rushed toward us. The shattering of a window was the first warning that this was no ordinary storm and drove us into a safer part of the house. Within such a short time, maybe a minute, it was all over. An eerie silence reined.
While USA and parts of Europe experience such things every year, New Zealand is not prone to weather extremes likes tornados. We have had a couple but I think I’m right in saying this has been the worst. Three people were killed and numerous others required hospital treatment. Thankfully no-one in my suburb suffered other than damage to property. Our village was quite picturesque with many trees and beautiful gardens. But within seconds the area was devastated, scattered with flying debris as huge trees were uprooted and small buildings sailed hundreds of metres from where they’d originally stood. My neighbours have still not found their trampoline, the one about twenty feet up in a tree about 300 metres from their yard isnt theirs. While the area looked like a bomb had hit it, there were many instances which defied logic. The huge trees that fell within inches of houses, breaking a window or two but otherwise not touching the buildings. I saw a car sitting in a friends yard amidst three very large fallen trees. The yard was full of those trees and yet there was an area of about 6 inches all around the car, completely clear of branches.
It sometimes takes a tragedy or disaster for one to realise what support there is lurking around us. The community of Whenuapai Village banded together and within minutes people were rushing from house to house, checking on neighbours, talking with strangers from further along the street, bonding in the common knowledge we were all suffering from damage of varying degrees. The arrival of the authorities very soon reinforced for me that we have an amazing civil defence group to help in these types of emergencies. I could never say enough good things about them.
With our roads initially blocked and without power for over 36 hours, life took on a surreal feel. Again we were shown what community really means. The help and caring attitude from neighbours for neighbours as we began the clean up, the arrival of numerous Air Force personnel from the nearby Base, the local scouts and school children who joined in. As we now see just how many homes were affected by the tornado as it tore a narrow pathway right through our village, I will never again doubt the inherent goodness of people. In real need, their thoughfulness toward others shows through.