Tornado

Although tornadoes are small and weak in New Zealand, there can be significant damage and threat to public safety when a tornado passes through a built up area.


For general readiness, every household should create and practice a Household Emergency Plan and assemble and maintain Emergency Survival Items and a Getaway Kit. In addition, every household should take tornado specific precautions and plan for and practice what to do if a tornado happens.

Action messages

  1. Determine your risk.
  2. Get your household ready.
  3. Make an evacuation plan.
  4. Keep an ‘in case of tornado’ to-do list.

Download our hazard app to help you make it safely through a disaster.

More information on how to prepare for and what to do following a tornado:

Tornado - Civil Defence guide (PDF)

More about tornadoes

More often than not, the damage resulting from tornadoes is minor because they exist for only a very short time. However, once in a while there is significant damage – and threat to public safety – when one or more tornadoes passes through a built-up area.

A tornado is a narrow, violently rotating column of air extending downwards to the ground from the base of a thunderstorm.

Only thunderstorms that have a particular sort of rotating air column produce tornadoes and it is only when this rotating air column touches down to the ground, or gets very close to the ground, does it become a hazard to land- (or sea-) based activity. A waterspout is simply a tornado that occurs over a body of water.

Compared with the tornadoes that occur over the Earth’s major continents, those observed in New Zealand are generally small and weak. They are usually around a few tens of metres wide, have tracks a few kilometres long and life spans of just a few minutes. Like all tornadoes, their damage paths are localised.

Learn about your community’s risks from hazards created by tornadoes.  Contact your local council to find out if you live in an area prone to tornadoes.  Visit the MetService website to find out about tornado risks.