Strong winds causing chaos in South Island

2019-01-23 18:03:52

High winds caused havoc in the South Island on Wednesday.

About 4200 properties were without power in the Queenstown Lakes and Central Otago districts from the early evening with further outages around Christchurch and Timaru shutting power off at hundreds of homes. Some homes were still without power on Thursday morning.

About 9.30pm MetService recorded a gust of 157kmh at Kaikōura, MetService meteorologist Andrew James said.

"There's a front moving up the South Island with quite strong northwesterly winds ahead of it and a quite strong southerly change in behind it."

Meanwhile, Wellington took a soaking on Wednesday evening, with heavy downpours around 11pm.

MetService expected Kaikōura would get the strongest of the gales, with southerly gusts of up to 140kmh possible through to about midnight.

Northwesterly gusts to 120kmh could affect parts of Wellington and Wairarapa through to 1am Thursday, while the worst of the northwesterlies should be easing in Marlborough and the Marlborough Sounds by 11pm Wednesday.

In Christchurch, a "massive" tree "split in half" causing half of the splintered tree to fall on a Bryndwr home.

Carol Simpson said she was in the shower of her council flat when she heard an "almighty bang on the roof" and came out to see the tree and around five branches had fallen after the tree split at the base, causing damage to the spouting and blocking the entrance to the home. She said broken shards of wood were all over the road, around the fence and littered on the ground, but the remaining half of the tree was still standing.

"It really was quite spectacular."

Two large trees fell across Speargrass Flat Rd near Lake Hayes in Queenstown, police said.

Emergency services were called to 23 reports of trees falling down from 11am to 7pm on Wednesday in the area, police said.

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The road from Queenstown to Glenorchy was blocked after trees fell down on the road at two different places, about 6.30pm and several cars were stuck between the trees.

The southwesterly squall brought gale-force winds to Canterbury from 7.30pm.

MetService said the maximum gust (to 8.40pm) was 126kmh on Sugar Loaf, with a peak gust of 113kmh at Le Bons Bay. In Christchurch city, winds gusted to around 100kmh. The winds were expected to quickly moderate towards midnight.

The temperature at 9pm – 11.5 degrees – was 21 degrees colder than Wednesday's maximum of 32.7.

In Hawea Flat, cars were damaged on Butterfield Rd after a tree fell down.

On Youghal St in Wanaka a tree fell on power lines, leaving the lines smoking with fire. There was also a power pole fire in Frankton.

An Auroa Energy spokesman said crews were working to repair electricity line damage.

"While every effort will be made to restore power as quickly as possible, this may take some time," he said.

The crashes were less serious – a person had minor injuries after a three-vehicle crash about 5.30pm on Frankton Rd, the main road between Queenstown and the airport.

Flights in and out of Queenstown were also affected – flights from Christchurch and Auckland were cancelled.

In Canterbury, rockfall closed Arthur's Pass between Otira and Candys Creek, a NZ Transport Agency (NZTA) statement said.

A tree was blocking the northbound lane on Johns Rd in Christchurch about 5.30pm.

NZTA were advising caravans, campervans, motorbikes and high sided vehicles to take care on SH7 between Waipara and Springs Junction due to strong winds.

Firefighters were also busy. A scrub fire on a roundabout in Pegasus, North Canterbury blocked the entrance to the town.

Twelve fire crews battled a six-hectare vegetation fire by a riverbed east of Culverden in Canterbury, on St Leonards Rd.

A Christchurch Airport spokeswoman said the airport had a secondary runway it could use in nor-west winds.

The windy conditions made driving dangerous especially for high-sided vehicles and motorcycles.

"Motorists are asked to take extra care while driving and be alert to the changing conditions," a police statement said.

A man was seriously injured after a tree fell on him in Christchurch on Wednesday afternoon.

MetService earlier issued a weather warning for severe northwest gales across the Canterbury high country ahead of the front.

A weather watch for "a period of southerly gales", which may even become severe gales for a time, was also been issued for behind the front for North Otago, the Canterbury Plains, and coastal Canterbury and Christchurch, from 3pm to 8pm.

There was also a low risk of thunderstorms being triggered by the southerly change on Wednesday afternoon and evening from North Otago to North Canterbury, MetService said.

Blue Skies Weather forecaster Tony Trewinnard​ said Thursday and Friday would be noticeably cooler than recent days, with maximum temperatures in the high teens or about 20C, before another spell of very warm weather from Sunday into next week.

This could bring more temperatures in the 30s, although the computer models were still undecided just how warm it might be, he said.

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