Three people were killed and 80 injured. About 150 houses were wrecked or badly damaged by what remains New Zealand’s deadliest recorded tornado. Damage was estimated at more than £1 million ($65 million in today’s money).
Cars were smashed, concrete telephone poles snapped and trees torn up during the ten minutes that the tornado took to cut a path 100 to 200 metres wide through Frankton, on the western outskirts of Hamilton. The tornado lifted as it reached the Hamilton CBD before landing again in Hamilton East. Here more trees were uprooted and two more houses damaged before it headed out of the city towards Tamahere.
The tornado picked up one house and turned it around before dropping it across the street. The occupants – a woman and her two children – amazingly escaped unharmed.
According to MetService the western side of the North Island (between Auckland and the Kapiti Coast) is the second most likely area to get tornadoes, after Westland. On average there are more than 30 tornadoes a year in New Zealand. Most are relatively small and only about a third of them occur near people and are reported.
The Frankton tornado was rated at F2 on the Fujita scale, a six-point scale used to rate the intensity of a tornado or other severe wind. At F2 wind speeds are between 150 and 200 km per hour.
I guess if that tornado hit Frankton today we’d be talking about all the millions of dollars worth of damage to P labs.