Home' Greymouth Star : March 7th 2015 Contents Greymouth Star
6 - Saturday, March 7, 2015
was digging in the garden
just the other day and
I found some coloured
glass that came from the
front door," Collins Street
resident Kathleen Hunt
Seventy per cent of the windows in her
house were destroyed, and her roof, in just
seconds that fateful day in March. Yet,
across the road all her neighbour lost was
his rubbish bin --- which hit Mrs Hunt.
She remains in the house today, her
home since 1983.
"I was standing at the sink doing the
lunch dishes and wondering what the
terrible noise was. I happened to look out
the window and could just see a black
cone coming towards me. en the wind
started. I took o down the passage, and
something hit me in the back. It was my
neighbour's rubbish tin, it came through
the kitchen window."
She could hear the roof tiles being
ripped o , and dirt and debris was ying
down the passage. Behind her husband,
who had been watching the cricket on tv,
glass was embedded in the wall.
Parts of the next door garage ended up
in her lounge, and their caravan jumped
the fence and landed just under the
Hunts' kitchen sink. Even the back of
their car was stoved in.
"And you can imagine the glasshouse!"
In the aftermath, Kathleen and her late
husband Bob stayed in their caravan.
Seven years later, she was shopping in
Countdown in New Brighton when the
big Christchurch earthquake hit.
" e tornado was over very quickly, but
the earthquake just went on and on. If
I had to do it again, I don't know which
one I would prefer."
Neighbour Helen Dash was in town
working at the former Anklebiters Cafe
in Albert Street when the tornado hit.
She went straight home to Collins Street.
"I thought it might have been all right,
but the garage was gone. e caravan was
All that was left of the garage was a
concrete pad. But, she says, it could have
been worse as so many people were not at
home that day.
"It changed our lives --- we had to
renew everything," Helen says.
It was an ill wind that blew through
Greymouth on March 10. Following a
strong north-westerly came a cold front
bringing in unstable air from the south-
south-west. e tornado it spawned left
a path of devastation 4km long, and up
to 400m wide. Insurance claims totalled
more than $9 million.
It walloped into the Blaketown Rugby
clubrooms and from Collins Street it
twisted across the lagoon into Swainson
Street. On one side of the lagoon, Alan
Devine Engineering lost two sides to
its building, while on the other side at
West eet vehicles were tossed into the
Smiths Speed and Spares, the Auto
Village Complex and Aratuna Freighters
were next (to name but a few), and as
it passed straight over the Tour and
Charters yard, the windows of the entire
eet of 14 buses were smashed.
Video Ezy was ripped apart; some of
the DVDs were found scattered a couple
of kilometres away on the hill behind
Kowhai Manor rest home.
NZ Safety, Boc Gas then the mini golf
range were slammed, and next was the
turn of Trans-West Freighters, Dispatch
Foundry, Wrightson, Caltex and the Civic
Centre, across Alexander Street
and on to Kowhai Manor, its last
Urban search and rescue teams were
deployed and spent the night securing
premises. Yet, just one person was
hospitalised --- visitor Lorraine Perrot,
who had to be cut from her campervan
parked outside the Blaketown clubrooms.
Fitter-welder Dean Coghlan became
one of the images of the disaster, standing
in the foundry surrounded by fallen
Today, it is the noise of it that he really
" e power went o , and we
congregated around the front. If it hadn't
gone o , there would have been a lot of
injuries. I hid in the bed of a lathe."
When he emerged, the roof and front
wall of the tall, heritage brick building
"Everything was open."
e next day the clean-up began and in
time, the foundry building was rebuilt as
good as it was before the tornado struck.
Jon Elley was working in the old
Sotherans building in Arney Street, and
was talking to a friend at the time.
" ere was just a terrible big noise, and
the door started rattling. I ran into the
toilet. I screamed at my friend to come
in with me but he couldn't hear me. He
dived under a car."
After it passed there was an eerie
silence. He could see the Tour and
Charter bus depot just up the street and
noticed the roof had gone. en his friend
pointed up --- their roof had gone, too.
It took six months for the damage to be
Pete Smith, from Smith's Speed and
Spares, lost 5.5m lengths of roo ng iron
as they were peeled o like an orange.
ey landed 1.5km away on Lance
Toplis's building, next to the funeral
home, and they still had the timber
"It hit the back of us," Pete says. "By the
time I got out the front door it was gone.
Devastation in the street. It took the top
Ten years down the track, the building
is still in ruins. Pete moved his vehicle
spares business across the road but it took
months to recover.
e Blaketown Rugby Club had
renewed its insurance not long before the
tornado hit. It was just as well.
Club supporter Gary Sara said although
the building was destroyed, thankfully
most of the old photographs on the walls
When the clubrooms were eventually
rebuilt, with lots more windows, there
was not enough room to re-hang them so
instead they inserted them into a series of
photo albums that people can peruse at
e club ended up with a "good
pavilion" as a result, Gary says modestly.
e tornado was the rst big test of
newly-elected Grey District Mayor Tony
Kokshoorn. He was on his way home for
lunch when he saw "the entire foundry
roof coming towards me".
"I rammed the handbrake on and
jumped into the backseat on the oor, and
thought 'here goes'. en the car shook
like hell. When I got out, two of the tyres
were totally slashed and the car dented.
"I looked behind me and there were roof
girders in the ground around the Civic
Centre like toothpicks, in the ground
For most people, the days that followed
were a blur --- a rush of volunteers,
builders, tarpaulins, rubbish trucks and
tv cameras. Some media, quick for a
soundbite, unkindly dubbed Greymouth
as New Zealand's tornado capital, but
there is a di erent legacy --- a town that
pulled together in its time of need.
"People came from everyone to help,"
"In Collins Street, you could hardly
move for people trying to help."
Chaos as the tornado rips through Greymouth, as viewed from Whall Street.
GRAPHIC: Resilient Organisation
e path of the tornado.
Leonard Street was left a scene of destruction.
Boundary Street bus depot.
A truck was picked up and thrown into the
Ten years after the great tornado of Greymouth, it is the noise that most people remember, and the heavy quiet that followed. e swirling w
town before exhausting itself in the hills beyond Kowhai Manor. In the blink of an eye, 4km of the town was destroyed, girders ung like toot
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