Topic: Frankton tornado of 1948

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On 25 August 1948 a major tornado ripped through the suburb of Frankton in Hamilton causing horrendous damage.

The power of the cyclone was incredible.

Frankton Junction after the tornadoSome buildings were snatched from their foundations, lifted and whirled away. Power poles, even concrete ones were snapped off like sticks. Some houses were completely flattened, pieces of the furniture and personal effects left scattered amongst the debris.

HCLLocal architect Frank (Andy) Anderson witnessed the power poles sparking from his office window. His company then became involved in the restoration of the damaged buildings. To listen to more about his recollections of that day, click here (Hamilton City Libraries OH0340). 

Three people were killed, many more were injured and up to 150 houses were damaged or totally destroyed in the 10 minutes it took for the tornado to pass through Frankton. Amazingly the cyclone lifted as it reached the central commercial area then landed again in Hamilton East, tearing up trees and damaging two more houses before it headed out of the city towards Tamahere. The estimated cost of the cyclone was £1,000,000. The prime minister at the time, Peter Fraser, flew to Hamilton that very afternoon to observe the damage.


Corner of Commerce and Keddell Streets following the tornado of 25 August 1948
The local police sergeant, Sergeant Bonnington spoke of the scene at the time "Everything was flying bricks, roofing iron, fences, wire, tiles and great baulks of wood. ... I saw telegraph poles snapped off cleanly like carrots. The air was full of rubbish of all kinds. A light trailer, newly built by a man living 100 yards away from the police station was whirled past" (New Zealand Herald 26/8/1948 p. 6). A cheque which had been presented to the Bank of New South Wales was later found on the Cambridge Golf Course.

HCLHamilton resident Walter Fricker remembers those cheques and where they ended up. To hear more about his memories, click here (Hamilton City Libraries OH 0002).


Some resources held at Hamilton City Libraries

Historic photographs

Waikato Times

Vertical File

New Zealand Parliamentary Debates (These record the announcement which was made in parliament on the day)

Oral histories

Record of Tornado which struck city (of Hamilton), August 25, 1948.

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Frankton tornado of 1948

Subject:Frankton, Hamilton (N.Z.) and Tornadoes, New Zealand, Hamilton