Heritage Column: Kete Horowhenua 15 January 2020

Published on 15 January 2020

Black and white image of tornado stricken Levin.

Heritage Column; Kete Horowhenua

Kiri Pepene, Information, Research & Local History Librarian

https://horowhenua.kete.net.nz/item/cd781902-0c64-4987-a768-20f7375913be

At 2.45am on April 8, 1969 the people of Levin were rudely awakened when a tornado ripped through a North-east subdivision.  The Morgan Subdivision was fairly new with many of the houses on it only a couple of years old. It appears the tornado came in from the sea and crossed the northern end of Lake Horowhenua. It ripped through Tiro Tiro Road, Gordon Place, carved a narrow course across Rosylyn Road near the railway crossing, and carried through to the Fairfield Road area. It then continued to the corner of Arapaepae and McDonald Roads where it petered out, but not before creating a trail of destruction. In total, around fifteen homes were severley damaged with up to thirty homes affected in some way. Early estimates of the cost was around $100,000. 

It was lucky that there were no serious injuries but there were some pretty close calls. One resident woke up and looking out the window saw a mass of material hurtling towards her house. She rushed to check her child in her room, and there was a large piece of glass embedded in the wall right above her daughter’s bed. Her daughter was unharmed but the next day she was very upset that the playhouse her father had built had been destroyed. Local residents had a lucky escape when roof tiles came through their ceiling, with one suspended right above where one couple had been sleeping.  Another woman suffered a cut to her face when a large piece of glass flew past and struck a wardrobe that was beside her bed.  The tornado was followed by torrential rain and neighbours and friends worked hard to cover roofs and broken windows on ravaged houses. Damage to a property on the corner of Arapaepae Road showed just how strong the winds had been. Concrete blocks and wrought iron fencing which had surrounded a swimming pool, were ripped from the ground.

The winds that night were so fierce that some of the debris was carried over the Tararua Ranges and found more than 15 miles away in the northern Wairarapa. It must have been terrifing for the residents. It was said that is sounded like a jet engine starting up, and for many it brought back terrible memories of the Wahine Storm. There was one incident where a chicken house just disappeared and out of 20 chickens only 7 were found.  I hope that they didn’t end up in the Wairarapa!

If you remember this or have any photos we would really appreciate if you could contact or pop into the Library, so that we can record first hand memories of this event.

Full credit for this image

Tornado damage, Newport & Cardiff Sts., Levin, 1969 – Chronicle

April 8, 1969

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