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About 3pm yesterday, Cromwell man Jay Munro heard what he thought sounded like a tsunami approaching.
When he went outside he was confronted with a ''big tornado-like thing'' enveloping the house across the street and making its way towards his Horace St house.
''It was basically the size of the whole section. I thought it was coming towards us ... it was quite scary.''
Meanwhile, house occupant Belinda Thomlinson was sheltering her two daughters, Bella (5) and Mischa (2) in their bathroom.
''We were in the bathroom already and heard a funny howling noise, it got really really windy and we felt the house shake like an earthquake ... I shut the door and we got on the floor.''
After about a minute, ''all of a sudden it was dead calm''.
She emerged to find timber, roofing materials and other debris strewn throughout their section.
A tree had been ripped from the ground, the vegetable garden was destroyed, the clothesline was broken and half her laundry had been whipped off into the swirling vortex.
Sheets of corrugated iron from her roof had been partially removed, though they were able to be nailed back into place.
''I think we were pretty lucky considering the force of it.
''It was really, really bizarre and scary.''
An Ortive St house, directly behind the Thomlinsons' house, had part of its tiled roof torn off by the force of the swirling extreme winds.
Cromwell police officers and volunteer fire brigade members assisted residents with cleaning up and making the damaged properties weatherproof.
Sergeant Simon Paget said that witnesses had called saying a twister had formed in the vicinity of the Cromwell Golf Course. It moved across Neplusultra St, through a reserve and across a couple of Horace St and Ortive St houses before dissipating.
Police and residents were still assessing damage last night.
No-one was injured in the high-wind event.
MetService weather forecaster Philippa Murdoch said the event was probably a ''dust devil''.
She said gusty northwesterly winds in the region reached 100kmh yesterday.
The formation of a dust devil was not just about wind speed but a ''mixture of conditions'' including local terrain.
Last month, a similar incident claimed the caravan, trampoline and ranchslider of Cromwell Community Board member Glen Christiansen.
In January 2009, mini-tornadoes tore off a section of the Bannockburn Hotel's roof, and in July of that year, a whirlwind whipped through an area north of Cromwell, ripping apart an implement shed and lifting the entire roof off a barn.