24 Jan 2019

Queenstown, Central Otago in clean-up mode after wild southerly change

7:06 pm on 24 January 2019

Queenstown and Central Otago are cleaning up today after wild southerly change swept through the area yesterday downing trees and cutting off power to thousands.

Tree down near Queenstown

A southerly change with strong winds hit Queenstown and Central Otago on Wednesday, downing trees. Photo: Aurora Energy

Dozens are still without power in pockets of the Queenstown Lakes and Central Otago districts, but last night power was cut to about 4500 customers as strong winds and heavy rain lashed the area.

Central Otago Mayor Tim Cadogan said the storm was out of the blue.

"We've had wind for ten days. It's just been quite relentless and it seemed to peak itself into a bit of a frenzy last night," he said.

Central Otago mayor Tim Cadogan

Central Otago Mayor Tim Cadogan Photo: Supplied

"And even snow on the hills. I was driving home from a meeting in the Maniototo and there was sleet on the windscreen. I thought this is ridiculous for January but it was four seasons in one day - which we often don't get in Central."

Temperatures plummeted and hale hit some areas.

It wreaked havoc on the roads as trees came down - cutting off some highways and leading the Queenstown Lakes District Council to advise against non-urgent travel.

But the Central Otago District escaped relatively unscathed with no reports of injuries or roofs coming off, Mr Cadogan said.

The small township of Glenorchy, about 50 kilometres from Queenstown, was cut off after a tree came down across the only road connecting the towns.

Camp Glenorchy managing director Keiran Frost said he did not see any major damage around the town, but one family of visitors was left without a roof over their heads.

"They got a bit of a shake. One of the campers lost their tent so we grabbed them and brought them inside for the night ... which they appreciated because they had children with them," he said.

Tree down Queenstown

Photo: Queenstown Lakes District Council / Facebook

The wild weather also created complications for staff who live in Queenstown.

"We were full and we even had a few people billeted in beds around the place for our team who are Queenstown-based and couldn't get home," he said.

"It was a bit of a bed shuffle, but we managed to get everyone's head down on a bed for the night so it worked out pretty well."

The wild weather cleared just as quickly as it arrived, leaving contractors to clean up the mess.

Queenstown Lakes District Council's general manager of property and infrastructure, Peter Hansby, said on Wednesday afternoon the area's roads were now reopened, but motorists should be cautious still.

MetService said the worst was over and a settled and warmer weekend laid ahead for the region.

However, it might be no easier to sleep in inland Otago with hot, muggy nights replacing the howling winds.