Weather bomb: It's not over yet

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Trees in Birkdale caused serious damage. Photo / Ngaire Jermaine
Trees in Birkdale caused serious damage. Photo / Ngaire Jermaine

A severe weather warning has been issued for much of the country this afternoon, as strong gales from the tail-end of today's storm continue to blast the country.

MetService has issued a strong wind warning for Wellington and Wairarapa, coastal Marlborough, Hawke's Bay, Gisborne, with gusts between 120 and 150km/h predicted until later tonight.

Metservice warned rough seas and heavy swells are still possible and may cause erosion and storm surge inundation in some coastal areas.

Warnings for remaining parts of the North Island and inland Marlborough have been lifted as winds are expected to continue to ease in these areas.

Hundreds of travellers and event-goers have had their weekend plans disrupted by the wild weather blasting the North Island.

Severe winds and heavy rain have ripped through parts of the north, leaving a path of destruction as the weather bomb moves down the island towards the Wairarapa.

Interislander passengers booked to sail today have been forced to delay their plans following the cancellation of all 10 scheduled crossings.

Those who were booked to sail have been transferred to crossings tomorrow morning, which were expected to go ahead, said a spokeswoman.

Seventy-six Air NZ flights have been cancelled, mostly in Wellington, Rotorua and Wanganui, because of the adverse weather.

In Wellington the semifinals of the Configure Express Pro Women's Challenger tennis competition, with prize money of US$25,000, have been moved indoors to the Renouf Tennis Centre due to heavy rain.

Yesterday organisers made the decision to cancel today's Kellogg's Nutri-Grain Ironman New Zealand in Taupo.

Tonight's scheduled final show of the Classic Hits Winery Tour at Villa Maria Estate, featuring Gin Wigmore, the Mutton Birds, and Avalanche City has been postponed until tomorrow night.

However, those heading to Ellerslie Race's Derby day won't be disappointed as the event was going ahead as planned.

All of the race day activity will go ahead - including the TV3-hosted carnival with a performance by Kimbra.

Police have been flooded with reports of roofs blown off, buildings damaged and and trees down as the storm heads to towards the Wairarapa "hitting the areas inbetween," said Metservice meteorologist Daniel Corbett.

"It will be shifting across the lower north. It's still going to be very strong to severe gales, especially in the Wairarapa coast and Hawkes Bay over the next eight hours," he said.

"It will be heavy persistent rain, sodden ground and the rain and wind are making it really mucky for travelling.''

It had been "a few years" since such a a deep low had been felt in some of the worst-hit areas, said Mr Corbett.

The weather bomb, an "explosive cyclogenesis," was defined by a deepening low that quickly strengthened and intensified, he said.

The weather would slowly ease overnight, said Mr Corbett

In Auckland winds were expected to increase to 100km/h this afternoon.

Salvage efforts on the Rena have stalled as rescuers wait for the weather bomb to pass, said Maritime New Zealand.

Workers inspected the wreck this morning and it continued to be electronically monitored but so far there had been "no significant damage" as a result of the weather, said spokeswoman Sophie Hazelhurst.

Earlier today, gusty winds pulled a large tree from its roots causing it to crash over a fence and into a neighbouring property West Auckland.

Zia Ahmad's family felt frightened as wind howled through their house before a loud "cracking" noise came from outside about 9am.

He said the neighbour's tree had crashed over the fence and into their backyard, narrowly missing the house in Hinerau St, Henderson.

"My wife was scared," Ahmad said. "We are lucky there was no damage and it didn't fall on top of the house because I have a baby and he was sleeping at the time."

The 34-year-old said his family - including his parents who also lived at the house - had been on edge during the night as the house shook and trees were on the verge of crashing down.

Ahmad said he was yet to talk to his neighbour but the fire service had been around to chop down branches, creating a clear pathway around the house.

Meanwhile, off the coast of Raglan, Auckland Westpac Rescue Helicopter flew to the aid of a yachtsman who made a mayday call this morning.

The rough weather conditions meant it was too dangerous for the man to be winched from his boat, so he had to deploy his liferaft and be rescued from there.

"He's happy to be off his boat, it was matter of time before it smashed up on the coast," said light paramedic Russel Clarke.

Downed power lines cause a four-hour power cut to Waitakere's Karekare.

In the small Taranaki settlement of Patea 50 houses lost their roofs, shop fronts were ripped away, windows blown out and trees toppled "everywhere" early this morning, said the town's fire chief.

Patea Volunteer Fire Brigade chief fire officer Grant Hurley said emergency calls began flooding in about 5am as the "quick and nasty" storm made its presence felt.

Firefighters focused on making sure people were safe, with dozens of residents seeking safety in the fire station, and did not go onto roofs during the storm. He was not aware of any injuries.

Power went out about 6am and remained cut at 11am.

There was no epicentre of damage, he said.

"Everywhere was hit."

Kelly Dwyer, who lives in Stafford St, said a power pole fell onto a boat outside her aunt's house across the road, but no one was injured.

The storm was frightening, Dwyer said.

"It was shaking the whole house."

Longtime Norfolk St resident Lina Baldwin said the storm was the worst she had experienced since moving to Patea in 1959.

"The wind, gee whizz, the house was shaking. I kept on putting my head under the blankets."

John Newton drove from Waverley to Patea this morning and said he had to dodge flying debris.

"Sheets of roofing iron were hurtling down the street. I couldn't drive up the street. The iron was flying at car height and over the car," he said.

He said he took the side streets in Patea to avoid the flying roofing iron but ran over power lines that had come down.

Trees and debris littered a 100m stretch of State Highway 3 near Manawapou Hill this morning, causing "very, very hazardous driving conditions," said Inspector Paul Jeremy.

Fire central communications shift manager David Miekle said teams in Southern Taranaki, from Manaia through to Wanganui, were working flat out to help those in trouble.

He said the reports of roofs being blown off were continuing to grow, along with power cuts and fallen power lines.

The storm is also being felt in Wellington, where trees fell onto Wainuiomata Road and Ngaio Gorge Rd.

- APNZ

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