We’re Not in Kansas Anymore, Toto!

“Napier to the left of him, a funnel cloud to the right of him, into the Bay of Hawke rode NapierinFrame…”

I never thought I’d say or write this when I was younger, but I saw a tornado, or “funnel cloud” just northwest of Napier last week!

(For those playing at home a funnel cloud is a tornado that doesn’t touch down – Just like meteors only become meteorites when they impact the earth.)

I was driving home from Bay View on Thursday (19 January 2023), still digesting New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s resignation announcement, and noticed some menacing clouds off to the west of Napier.

This is not at all unusual, as afternoon thunderstorms are quite common in recent years as Hawke’s Bay’s summer climate appears to have become more and more tropical. I often take photos of different or threatening-looking cloud formations:

A storm approaching Napier, October 2021

But these ones looked different.

I stopped my car in the sea-side layby opposite Napier’s old shipping beacons, just north of Hawke’s Bay Airport’s runway and got out for a clearer look with my phone in hand.

Along with the squally, showery cloud down to hill-level there was another odd-looking cloud.

It was long, and cylindrical – It was a tornado!

As is the way these days I immediately started taking photos and shooting “citizen journalism” videos with my phone:

The funnel cloud didn’t last long, but I had managed to time things perfectly, as I was able to get several photos and a couple short videos recorded which came out fantastically clear, despite being at full zoom.

As it dissipated I got back in the car and continued home where wifi coverage sped up connection speeds and uploaded the footage I had taken to my social media channels.

There was, understandably, a fair bit of interest including from media networks who requested copies for broadcast/print.

Apparently I’m not good enough to be head-hunted by New Zealand broadcasters to provide Hawke’s Bay content as a full time career, but they’ll happily harvest my social media content I guess?

Despite growing up in calm, sedate Napier, New Zealand and not America’s “Tornado Alley” around Oklahoma, Kansas, or the “Texas Panhandle”, this isn’t the first “twister” I’ve seen in Hawke’s Bay (not counting the fantastic 1996 Jan de Bont blockbuster – I still have the soundtrack on CD and it’s still a banger!).

In April 2021 I stepped outside of my daughter’s swimming lesson at the Onekawa Pools for a breath of non-chlorinated, less humid air to see a waterspout touring over Napier as it made its way across Hawke Bay, briefly making land fall at the Port of Napier!

With our climate undeniably changing (where did summer 2022/23 go?) and weather events like cyclones and rainfall events becoming more and more common I thought it was only a matter of time before Napier and Hawke’s Bay had more and more freakish acts of nature like tornadoes!

I just never expected it to happen this soon.

The best we can do is prepare ourselves to deal with the changes we already face and try and mitigate any further future change.

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