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Store loses roof as winds hit Coast

By Nicholas McBride, Paul McBride of the Greymouth Star -
Whataroa is one of many towns on the West Coast that were hit by gusting winds this morning.
Whataroa is one of many towns on the West Coast that were hit by gusting winds this morning.

Half of the Whataroa store roof was blown off, and a flight into Hokitika had to be turned around, as gusting winds buffeted the southern West Coast this morning.

The Metservice yesterday forecast winds up to 150km/h, and South Westland bore the full force this morning.

Patrick Clarke was busy trying to nail down what was remaining of the White Heron Store and Tearooms roof when he spoke to the Greymouth Star late morning.

"She's a mess, a big gust came in and she went."

Half the roof had folded over the other, and a tractor was required to remove it.

Next door, Whataroa School principal Jenny Bainbridge said it had been windy all morning, with two especially strong gusts.

"The first one ripped the side off the shop and then a second gust of wind took away half the shop's roof.

A decorator's van at the school was tossed around but wasn't damaged, but the school is all right. It is school as normal," she said.

At Franz Josef Glacier, Department of Conservation ranger Kristina Mottlova said they had high winds through the night, while at Haast, DOC ranger Lynda Horne said the wind was "screaming down the valley".

An Air NZ flight from Christchurch to Hokitika had to be turned back due to severe turbulence over the Southern Alps in the southeasterly flow.

State Highways 7 and 73 were both closed for the morning due to heavy snow; the Haast Pass had reopened but chains were essential.

NZ Transport Agency Canterbury West Coast operations manager Pete Connors said he was unsure when the roads would reopen, given the forecast.

"We're pretty hopeful about Lewis, but it depends on what the weather does."

Ice on State highway 73 had made the road treacherous and "impossible for people to travel".

A DOC Arthur's Pass spokeswoman said the village had 11cm of snow on the ground just before 9.30am and the temperature was a brisk 0C.

Snow was expected to persist until Saturday on Arthur's Pass, according to the Metservice.

Lewis Pass is expected to get up to 50cm by the end of today, while Porters Pass is forecast to get the biggest dumping in the country, with 60 to 90cm to accumulate before midnight.

- The Greymouth Star

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