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Residents were forced to listen to the roaring sound in the darkness as the power went out and was not restored to the village centre until about 10.30am.
Sam Adkins on Hawkins Rd ran outside to secure his home's roof when he heard it flapping up and down at about 5am.
He could see the iron lifting from a front corner.
A verandah post underneath had fallen and the nearby security camera had fallen and smashed onto the ground.
Going to his nearby car shed to get a ratchet strap so he could secure the roof, Adkins found the wind had broken the garage door locks and blown the doors inwards. They were up against cars inside, so he could not open them.
Adkins said his partner held the ladder as he climbed up and secured the iron. He reinstalled the verandah post.
He described the event as "a bit of a nightmare," made worse by the noise of the wind in the darkness as it was hard to see what was happening.
Once it was daylight he was in clean-up mode, picking up corrugated roofing which had blown into his yard from another property.
Fellow Hawkins Rd resident John Clapham also had corrugated roofing material in his yard which had blown in from somewhere as well.
"It was pretty horrendous and debris flying off the trees and hitting the house roof," Clapham said.
Hororata landholder Mike Davies said he lost 19 of 28 gum trees on his property. The trees were about 30 years old.
Fellow resident Sheena Broughton also lost mature trees, including blue gums, macrocarpa and pine trees.
"They fell on my chicken run, the chickens are fine," Broughton said.
Trees in a plantation near the town sawmill were toppled, while others along roads came down on power lines.
The gale force nor’wester also left a trail of destruction across North Canterbury on Friday morning.
It ignited fires, cut power, snapped and flung trees across roads and power lines, and sent trampolines, garden furniture and small sheds flying.
The wind ramped up about 4am waking people as debri was flung around yards and on to the roofs of houses.
Seven fire appliances fought a fire all morning at the Garry River after a fire that had been dormant for three months in a paddock was fanned into life.
The fire spread into the riverbed making it difficult for Fire and Emergency NZ to get access.
A huge gum tree on the west of the Garry River Bridge crashed across Birch Hill Road closing it, while down pines from Oxford to the river made negotiating the Ashley Gorge Road and several side roads extremely difficult.
Downed power lines, and darkness made it difficult for anyone travelling.
From Waimakariri Gorge to Lewis Pass and beyond, the wind took its toll. In the Hawarden, Waikari area some sheds were squashed under trees, while others were left battered by the wind. The Lewis Pass was closed early morning due trees across the road.
People shaken from their sleep about 4am say it was an horrendous ordeal, and very, very scary, particularly when plunged into darkness..
Most had power again by late morning, and many began cleaning up debri and damage when the wind died as rain began to set in mid-morning.
-Additional reporting North Canterbury News