Terrifying tornados ripped through Stratford

Stratford, like most areas in Taranaki, was hit by a swarm of tornados last week as locals faced the worst weather seen this year.
Fortunately, Stratford residents received minor damage compared to other areas in the region, like Oakura and New Plymouth's Central Business District. Stratford Fire Chief Noel Webby said 10 houses were hit by the tornados, however more minor cases may not have been reported.
After heavy rainfall and numerous lighting strikes, a tornado hit Stratford just after 6pm. The tornado came from the northwest, destroying trees and bending powerpoles on Monmouth and Flint Roads. It then cut a wave of destruction through Cressida Avenue, Fabian Street, Olivia Street, Essex Street, Stratford Primary School and Portia Street, before heading south towards Eltham and Normanby. The monstrous event was over within 30 minutes.
Noel said all 30 volunteer firefighters braved the extreme weather to help control the aftermath of the tornados, but a shortage of tarpaulins limited their help to locals.
Gardens, fences, roof tops and more suffered from the blast, the worst affected house belonged to Chris Hill on Fabian Street.
On Friday, the Minister of Civil Defence, Rick Barker, came to visit Stratford and Oakura to see the damage from Thursday, multiple tornado strikes. Just after lunch, he visited the home of Chris Hill and talked to him about his terrible night.
Chris told the minister that his son, Jake (11), was busy watching television in the lounge while he was at the other end of the house on the computer.
"The entire house started shaking and then the ceiling kind of popped up.

I went down to the lounge and comforted Jake. All of a sudden there was a big bang and then dead silence. I told Jake I think we just lost the roof."
Chris then said he had to call a friend to borrow a flashlight and when he looked up into the manhole all he saw was the sky.
"It was a strange fright, my son was a bit shaky."
He then said heaps of volunteers including the fire brigade helped secure several tarpaulins over the roof and then started helping him move his household items into the garage for protection.
"The volunteers were awesome, true heros. Afterwards I took them all to the pub for a beer. The best thing is, in the morning more volunteers helped to continue with the clean-up. Local community support here is amazing."
Extent of damage still being revealed
Calls are still coming in about damage from last week's tornadoes, said Taranaki Civil Defence Emergency Management Group Recovery Manager, Bev Raine.
"We are receiving calls from residents who have sustained damage to property, in particular in rural communities, and hoping to resolve this. We are aware that there could be others who have also sustained some damage. We would encourage them to contact us. We are also receiving requests for accommodation, which are being referred to the appropriate department."
Some 73 homes are known to have been damaged in the tornadoes, mainly in Oakura but also in Motunui, Stratford, Hawera, Kaponga, Okaiawa, Normanby and Rahotu.
In addition, it's estimated hundreds of trees have been downed, particularly in South Taranaki.
The Welfare Centre established at the Oakura Bowling Club will remain open from 10am to 4pm until Friday, with Ministry of Social Development staff on hand.
The welfare helpline is 0800 779 997.
The Ministry of Social Development said assistance for people affected by the tornadoes can include:
" Emergency payments for food, clothing and bedding.
" Reimbursing people who have billeted evacuees.
" Reimbursements for items not covered by insurance, including food or damage to property.
" Payment for hotel-motel accommodation for evacuees. By Saturday afternoon, nearly 70 calls had been fielded on the welfare helpline from people offering assistance as well as people needing it.
"Offers include help for such things as food, blankets, labour for cleaning up, and we've also had inquiries from other parts of New Zealand about loved ones living in Taranaki," Mrs Raine.
The New Plymouth District Council is continuing to deal with rubbish and debris in Oakura.
The state of emergency was lifted at 10am on Saturday July 7.

- Stratford Press

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