Tornado terror: Mum says children were petrified they were going to be 'sucked up'

A Christchurch family of four had the ride of their lives this afternoon as a tornado travelled alongside their car on their way back home from a long weekend.

Richard and Alesha Plew said their two children, aged nine and six, were so scared they thought they were going to get sucked into the massive twister.

The family, who had just driven through 15 minutes of "ice cube"-sized hail in Ashburton, were talking about the damage to their car’s paintwork when they looked up and saw the twister a couple of fields away.

“What the hell is that?” was Mr Plew’s response, as the twister he described as about 80 metres high and about eight car-lengths in width got closer and eventually spiralled dirt and hay across its path.

“It just looked pretty ominous,” said Mr Plew.

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An irrigator was 'pretty much snapped in half' and a two-tonne mower was turned over, Randal Hanrahan said. Source: 1 NEWS

With Ms Plew filming, the pair said their children were “really scared".

But the couple said the tornado was not a threat to them.

“It was quite slow moving," Ms Plew explained. "We drove through the outer bits of it but it didn’t feel like it was pulling us up or anything - it wasn’t that strong.”

Mr Plew added: “It was quite awe inspiring as it was quite huge.”

“I said to the kids it was once-in-a-lifetime experience and they were fairly lucky to experience it.”

The family, which had just spent the weekend in Ohau, said the hailstorm caused the most damage to their vehicle on their journey home.