17 Sep 2010

Severe weather batters the country

10:13 pm on 17 September 2010

Severe weather battered many parts of New Zealand on Friday, closing roads and causing power outages for thousands of customers.

People are being warned to stay away from downed power lines, while roads in both islands have been shut due to heavy snow and debris falling on roads.

At least 14,000 customers are without electricity in the greater Auckland region on Friday night which has been battered by heavy rain and winds gusting over 100km/h in some places.

Electricity lines company Vector says crews are trying to restore power to pockets of affected residents in the Auckland region and parts of Waiheke Island.

A spokesperson says branches coming down from trees onto powerlines, as well as a large lightening strike, has caused the outages.

Emergency services have been inundated with weather related callouts, dealing with downed trees, powerlines and roofs blowing off houses.

The Coastguard says hurricane-force winds of more than 140km/h have been recorded at the Manukau Heads as the storm lashes the region.

Further south, electricity lines company Powerco says the storm has caused power cuts to about 12,000 customers in and around Thames, Paeroa, Kerepeki, Waihi, Matapihi and Te Puke.

A spokesperson says there have been reports of at least three trampolines being blown into overhead lines and at least 2000 customers will remain without power overnight on Friday.

Earlier, the Wellington region was hammered with about two hours of heavy rain, thunderstorms, wind and lightening which knocked out power to about 3500 homes. Power has since been restored.

The capital and surrounding areas were hit by the front between 11am and 1pm, bringing heavy rain and winds of up to 130km/h. There were 109 lightening strikes recorded during the period.

Roads closed

Snow has closed State Highway 94 from Te Anau to Milford Sound on Friday night and motorists are urged to use chains on other roads in the South Island.

Snow has also been falling in Queenstown and is expected to be at sea level in some coastal parts of Otago and Southland.

MetService says snow is expected to fall to 800 metres in the central North Island and could affect the Desert Road.

In Auckland, police say the northwestern motorway has been closed from Newton Road to St Lukes Rd, west-bound, due to damage to signs on Friday night. There are also reports of debris across roads throughout the city.

Strong winds have brought down trees throughout Waikato, closing some roads. State Highway 21, the main road to Hamilton airport, has been closed at Narrows Bridge as the water levels of the Waikato River rise.

Trees are blocking parts of State Highway 1 at Huntly, and State Highway 39 between Tuhikaramea and Ngahinapouri, and the northbound lane of the Waikato expressway near Te Kauwhata.

Big swells recorded

MetService says a buoy which measures waves on the coast south-west of Hamilton has recorded swells of between six and nine metres.

That is more than double the height the waves were at midday on Friday, and it expects them to get bigger.

The Kapiti Coast District Council is warning high tides and waves, predicted to peak at up to seven metres, could create dangerous conditions on shore areas and seawalls.