Windy Ita blows power to homes

By Peter de Graaf

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Paihia waterfront was buffeted by strong winds.
Paihia waterfront was buffeted by strong winds.

Almost 5000 Far North households lost power as ex-cyclone Ita cut a swathe across the district.

Most of the damage was caused by trees toppled onto power lines by winds reaching 120km/h.

Top Energy staff were kept busy repairing faults on high-voltage lines at Kaikohe, Kawakawa, Awanui, Okahu Rd, Omanaia, Taipa, Waipapa and Whangaroa. A spokesman said about 4800 customers had been affected but line and vegetation clearance crews were progressively restoring power.

There were still 280 Far North homes without power at midday yesterday but it was hoped all services would be restored by nightfall.

Meanwhile, the tropical low put on a spectacle in Paihia but caused little damage, in contrast to the hammering the town received from Cyclone Lusi last month.

In particular Lusi damaged the waterfront restaurant 35 Degrees South, lifting part of a brand-new deck and flooding the bar when a window was pushed out by the force of the waves.

This time the owners removed part of the deck's planking before the storm arrived and reinforced a large window with plywood and timber supports. The restaurant was closed and surrounded by security fencing as a precaution.

Manager Sarah Greener said they were able to re-open in time for lunch on Thursday and sustained no damage. It would be business as usual over Easter. An apartment complex on Marsden Rd sandbagged its underground car park to prevent a repeat of last month's flooding. The Swordfish Club also took precautions to keep seawater out.

The northeasterly winds peaked early Thursday morning and at high tide, about 9am, waves were washing across Marsden Rd. However, contractors kept sweeping the debris away and the road remained open.

Paihia police sergeant Peter Masters said the effects were nowhere as bad as Lusi's, thanks to a less forceful storm and better preparation by waterfront businesses.

The storm did, however, hit hard in other parts of the Bay. The Kawakawa Fire Brigade had five call-outs between 4am and 7am, all for trees blown down across roads. One tree also took down power lines on Waikare Rd.

Kerikeri's volunteer firefighters were called out six times between 5am and 7.30am, all but once for downed trees, while the Mangonui brigade had to saw-up several fallen trees and secured a boat which had broken free from its moorings.

Northland fire brigades were called out 109 times between midnight and 2pm on Thursday.

- Northern Advocate

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