Zazzle Shop

Screen printing

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Snow's up for winter surfers

By KELLY BURNS - The Dominion Post

Sunday News
MAKING THE MOST OF IT: A snowboarder makes the most of a thick blanket of hail to get a tow along Papamoa Beach.

Beaches were turned into a winter wonderland as hailstorms hammered the North Island, prompting snowboarders to hit the sand dunes.

Winter came early in dramatic fashion yesterday as a mini-tornado, hail, rain and snow sent chills across the country.

In the Bay of Plenty, the violent storms brought traffic to a standstill, sparked surface flooding and caused thousands of lightning strikes.

More than 2000 people were evacuated from Mt Maunganui's Bayfair shopping mall after hail collapsed part of its roof and heavy rain caused flooding.

Papamoa Primary School is closed today after rain and hail 15 centimetres deep in places blocked drains and flooded classrooms.

Ellen Irvine said marble-sized hailstones hammered the roof of her Papamoa home about midday with such force she thought the windows would break.

Her garden became a "winter wonderland" and hail blanketed Papamoa beach, but then the sun shone and snowboarders made the most of the conditions on the sand dunes..

Whakatane police said lightning struck a tree that landed on a garage, and lightning also hit a fusebox at Paroa Road School.

"We've had six inches of hail, it's a bit like a weather-bomb," Sergeant Floyd Pratt said.

A mini-tornado ripped through Warkworth, north of Auckland, reaching estimated speeds of 100kmh and cutting power to the town for about 10 minutes.

Residents in one house escaped unharmed after the tornado pulled the roof off their rented home, scattering the tiles in their backyard and punching holes through the ceiling.

Resident Raewyn Hudson said the tornado knocked over television aerials and birdbaths, uprooted small trees and broke branches.

MetService forecaster Erick Brenstrum said up to 5000 lightning strikes may have hit the Bay of Plenty yesterday.

He expected the thunderstorms to move down Hawke's Bay and Wairarapa today, but said the worst was over.

Skiers were rejoicing at the snowfalls. Mt Ruapehu spokesman Mike Smith said there had been a dramatic change on the ski-fields in the past week, with about 60cm of snow falling at Turoa and 50cm at Whakapapa.