26 Oct 2013

Severe weather hits Canterbury

8:28 pm on 26 October 2013

Severe gales sweeping across the Canterbury plains on Saturday have been causing havoc, with trees knocked down, roads blocked, power cut and fires breaking out.

More than 600 properties are without power, with Lincoln and Leeston the worst affected areas.

The lines company Orion says teams trying restoring power have had to be withdrawn from some areas, because trees are still coming down in the strong winds, and it's unsafe.

Other areas affected by power cuts include Liffey Springs, Irwell, Rolleston, and Selwyn.

The Rangiora A&P show in North Canterbury was closed down at about midday after two people were hurt by flying objects.

Fire crews took more than four hours to contain a large forest fire near Ashburton, but the fire is now out.

The fire service has fielded at least 25 weather related calls in the region since noon on Saturday, some concerning scrub and grass fires caused by arcing electricity lines.

The Rangiora A&P Association's annual show in North Canterbury was called off just after lunchtime.

Its president, Jeremy Ashworth, says flying objects were becoming dangerous and at least two people were hurt.

"The wind just got up beyond reasonable and too much of the craft exhibits starting blowing around."

Police in Christchurch asked people to avoid McLeans Island Road, because of fallen trees and broken power lines. They say people also need to be careful while travelling on Johns Road, where trees have fallen onto the roadway.

Crews are attempting to clear these roads.

MetService is advising the northwest gales will bring heavy rain to the headwaters of Canterbury lakes and rivers from the Hurunui River southwards.

It says the heaviest falls east of the main divide are likely to occur on Saturday afternoon, with thunderstorms; a further 180mm is possible in the Westland ranges from Saturday until early Sunday morning.

MetService says this is a significant amount of rain, and it comes close on the heels of previous heavy rainfall.

People are advised to be wary of rising river levels and the possibility of surface flooding and slips.

West Coast

The West Coast Regional Council says flood warning staff are on duty this weekend but they do not expect to be called on for help as heavy rain hits the area.

Chief executive Chris Ingle says although rivers are up slightly, the weather has remained the same for the previous two weeks or so.

Queenstown District Council and the Regional Council are also monitoring the rising levels of the lakes at Queenstown and Wanaka.

Queenstown District Council spokesperson Michelle Poole says there are no civil defence warnings in place and the only warning in the area has been issued by the harbourmaster, for owners to ensure boats have been securely moored.

Spring windier

A climate scientist says this spring has been windier than normal.

Associate Professor James Renwick from Victoria University says October and November are usually the windiest months of the year but this season has been windier than usual.

Dr Renwick says this is due to more storms that normally sit over the oceans between New Zealand and Antarctica, being pushed up much closer to New Zealand in the last few weeks, causing low pressure and increasing wind strengths.

He says the winds should be tapering off soon and calmer days might be on the cards, at least during the next couple of weeks.