New Zealand Tornado Rips Auckland

May 3, 2011; 8:30 AM ET
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At least three people are reported to be dead in the aftermath of a powerful tornado that roared through the New Zealand city of Auckland.

Reports also told of about 20 injuries.

Packing winds estimated to be 200 km/h, or 125 mph, the twister struck near 3 p.m., local time, cutting a path through the northern suburbs of the country's biggest city. A shopping mall was hit and partly unroofed, according to reports. An eyewitness also said that a nearby hardware store was heavily damaged.


North Island, New Zealand (Google Maps image.)

The swath of damage apparently stretched for about 5 km, or 3 miles, dying out as it neared the city center.

According to meteorologists at AccuWeather.com, factors known to be favorable for tornado formation were present over New Zealand's North Island at the time of the twister.

A vigorous storm center was located over the Tasman Sea, west of New Zealand, bringing a warm northerly wind flow to the country. High overhead, a northwesterly jet stream supported thunderstorm growth in the warm air ahead of the storm's cold front.

Weather officials say that New Zealand is struck by about 20 tornadoes each year. These are usually narrow and short-lived.

A deadly twister struck the city of Hamilton, North Island, in 1948, killing three people and injuring another 80.

An interesting aside is that the twister spun clockwise, normal for the Southern Hemisphere, but opposite that of virtually all Northern Hemisphere tornadoes.

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