Worst of the storm over but power still out for thousands

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Flooding at the base of Turntable Hill, Moerewa.
Flooding at the base of Turntable Hill, Moerewa.

The worst of the storm that brought widespread power cuts and surface flooding to Northland appears to have passed, but thousands of people still face the prospect of a second night without power, officials warn.

As predicted by the MetService, gale force easterly winds continued to batter the region for much of the day today, making life difficult for those attempting to restore power and other services.

Claire Nyberg, spokesperson for the Northland Civil Defence Emergency Management (CDEM) Group, said with power, roading and other infrastructure all affected overnight, clean up and repair work had been ongoing today.

She said those attempting to restore power to thousands of people left without electricity at the height of the storm had been particularly busy and as of about 3pm today electricity companies had been making good progress.

But despite this, the power companies warn at least 10,000 Northlanders are facing the prospect of a second night without electricity.

Northpower said the storm has been the worst it has experienced in the past seven years and as of 3pm today it alone had more than 100 staff in the field assessing storm damage and carrying out repairs.

Despite repair crews being bolstered by staff from its Tauranga, Matamata, Hamilton and Warkworth depots about 6500 Northpower customers are currently without power across the Kaipara and Whangarei Districts.

While the company was focussing on repairing key parts of its network and is hoping to have power outages reduced to "the low thousands" by later this evening, it warned many locals would be without power for a second night as it is too dangerous to have crews working at night in dark, stormy conditions.

Members of the public are warned to keep well away from downed lines and phone 111 in case of emergency.

Further north, power company Top Energy reports a similar story with about 11,000 of its Far North customers still without electricity and expected to remain so overnight.

Elsewhere in Northland, the State Highway network is now passable in most places, although State Highway 11 at Lemon's Hill between Kawakawa and Opua and State Highway One near Moerewa's Turntable Hill were still closed due to flooding this afternoon.

Port Whangarei at Marsden Pt remains closed and Northland's Regional Harbourmaster Jim Lyle said while there are serious problems with about 25 boats around the region, some of which could take days to salvage, that was still an improvement from earlier today.

Ms Nyberg said overall a telephone briefing involving multiple emergency services, local authority, essential services and others at 3pm had revealed few new problems since this morning.

Telecommunications issues caused by depleted batteries at cellphone towers where power had been off for some time were an ongoing problem in some areas, and there were similar power-related problems at some sewage treatment stations.

Ms Nyberg says officials will monitor the situation overnight and update the public if required, including through the Northland CDEM Group's Facebook page www.facebook.com/civildefencenorthland

She pointed out that in the first instance, people with any concerns about property damage and insurance claims should contact their insurance companies directly, rather than their local council.

Ms Nyberg says information about any ongoing local district council road and State Highway closures/issues in Northland is available from the Automobile Association website via www.AAroadwatch.co.nz

The site contains a map and brief description of closed/affected roads and an indication of when the issue/s involved is likely to be resolved.

General Civil Defence information is also available from the Northland Regional Council's website www.nrc.govt.nz/civildefence

- NORTHERN ADVOCATE

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