North Island hit by violent storm; thousands still without power

By Derek Cheng, APNZ staff, Newstalk ZB staff

The 'City of Sails' became the 'City of debris trails' today.
The 'City of Sails' became the 'City of debris trails' today.

The intense low pressure weather system that wreaked havoc on the upper North Island is moving south and east, with heavy rain warnings still in place for the Bay of Plenty, Gisborne and the Hawkes Bay.

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MetService has lifted its severe warnings for heavy rain and gale-force winds for Northland, Auckland and the Coromandel Peninsula, although there remains a risk of heavy rain in the southern Coromandel today.

Watch: Storm smashes Auckland

Heavy rain warnings are in place for eastern parts of the North Island, especially for Gisborne and Hawke's Bay. Falls could be as intense as 20mm to 30mm per hour in possible thunderstorms.

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The system will hover there for a couple of days before being forced away by a high pressure system on Friday.

MetService meteorologist Marylin Avery said the weather system was moving very slowly as it passed through the Waikato today.

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"Strong winds are still expected south of there, but the winds are lighter, and it's showery further north.

"There will be heavy falls for the Bay of Plenty, Gisborne and the Hawkes Bay."

More than 300mm of rain is possible in the ranges around Gisborne and Hawkes Bay through to Friday morning, with 100mm to 150mm in lower areas.


Photo / Fiona McDonald

Further significant rain is also likely in parts of Bay of Plenty, with 100mm to 200mm of rainfall.

Lesser amounts of rain are likely in eastern Taihape, the ranges of Wairarapa, eastern Marlborough and northwest Nelson.

In the Tararua Range, 70mm to 100mm of rain is expected to fall in the 18 hours until 3am tomorrow.

The rain should ease in Canterbury and Marlborough tomorrow morning.

"Strong east to southeast gales could be severe for a time today in western areas from the central North Island high country down to the Kapiti Coast, and also in the Marlborough Sounds, western parts of Nelson, Buller and Westland," Ms Avery said.

She said the system was still potent.

"It's moved a bit south, and there's onshore winds and very moist air. It's still the same weather system, still quite strong."

A high pressure system just south of the country will start pushing north tomorrow, and spread further north on Friday and Saturday as the low pressure system moves away to the east.

"In the eastern North Island, the wind will abate and the rain will ease by Friday."

All road closures from flooding and fallen trees have now been reopened, although there is still caution for SH25 at Hikuai for slight surface flooding.


Browns Bay, Auckland. Photo / Karl McIntyre

Damage and destruction

Forty thousand people are still without power in the Auckland region after the powerful storm left a trail of destruction across the upper North Island.

One child was taken to hospital with minor injuries after a tree smashed through a roof in Manly, Whangaparaoa, about 1.10am.

In Blenheim a 12-year-old girl was swept away by floodwaters on her way to school, saved only by the quick thinking of two passers-by.

Do you have photos or video of last night's storm damage? Email us here.

Emergency services in Auckland city attended more than 600 calls after midnight, as the city's streets were littered with debris.


Photo / NZ Herald reader

The Coastguard has issued warnings to the public to be wary of debris floating in the water after last night's storm.

Coastguard spokesperson Georgie Smith said over a dozen calls had been made overnight regarding boats adrift, which have been referred to the Harbourmaster.

A 52-foot fishing vessel in distress off the Coromandel coast has now been blown in to safety.

A distress call was sent from the vessel carrying three people at 3.30am after an anchor rope had been caught around its propeller.

"The winds were very strong and was pushing them to the rocks so they made a mayday call to Maritime radio," said Maritime NZ spokesperson Michael Flyger.

The call was coordinated with the Police Maritime Unit, and was downgraded when the wind changed and pushed the vessel to safety.

Fullers Auckland has been forced to close down their Bayswater ferry services after the marina received extensive damages overnight.

Fullers operations manager Tim Palmer said efforts were underway to restore services, but it is likely the terminal will remain shut until the weekend.

He said power outages across the North Shore also meant that services were disrupted at Devonport and Northcote Point, and passengers were unable to use HOP scanners on ferries.


Damage on Shortland Street, Auckland. Photo / Jun Dolon

Girl swept away in Blenheim

A 12-year-old girl swept away by a flooded Blenheim river while walking to school this morning was saved by two quick-thinking passers-by.

Police say a tragedy was averted when a 17-year-old man and another man leapt to the girl's aid.

The girl was swept away by a raging Taylor River, near High St, at about 8.45am.

The two men chased her along the river bank and eventually recovered her from the water near Beaver Rd, police said.

The 12-year-old girl has been taken to hospital in a serious condition.

The teenage rescuer has also been taken to hospital suffering mild hypothermia. The other man did not require medical attention.

Senior Sergeant Dan Mattison said the quick actions of the teenage boy and the other man involved in the rescue had saved the girl's life.

Power still out to tens of thousands


Scenic Drive, Titirangi. Photo / Meagan Ramages

Vector crews have worked throughout the night to attend to numerous faults after two huge wind blasts up to 145km/h swept through the city, one at 11pm last night and another at 1am.

Forty thousand customers are still without power in the Auckland region, Vector says.

Most power has now been restored to the 6000 outages in Auckland south of the Harbour Bridge.

In the northern region up to Warkworth, a further 15,000 have been restored, with 40,000 still without power.

Vector spokeswoman Sandy Hodge said 30 crews were working on the northern network, along with seven Treescape crews.

"If you are medically dependent and are without power, then please contact a family member or friend who has power, or if none of these options are available please go to your nearest hospital."

One of the Vector crews had a lucky escape when a large tree came down next to their truck, trapping the vehicle.


Photo / Helen Webber

About half of the customers who lost power across Tauranga and South Waikato have had their power restored.

High winds brought trees down across overhead lines on Powerco's electricity network, causing wide-spread power cuts starting from midnight.

Powerco Acting Electricity Operations Manager Phil Marsh said a total of 30,000 customers had lost power overnight and today.Supply had been restored to about 15,000 of these properties.The hardest hit areas were in Coromandel and Thames.

"Most of the damage has been caused by trees falling across lines," Mr Marsh said.

Extra resources were brought in the help restore the power quickly and safely, he said.

Photos: Auckland storm

Whangaparaoa resident Dennis Hawnt was woken last night to find a large tree had crashed through his garage and sleepout.

Mr Hawnt said he woke just after midnight and found that power in his Arkles Bay home was off.

"I went outside and saw the tree had fallen on the garage and the sleepout, but it was good because nobody was in the building at the time."

A local fire brigade was in the area, and came to assess the damage.

"It's quite lucky that it didn't land in a more inconvenient place, like on one of the cars or on the house."

Mr Hawnt said he would seek advice from his insurance company before embarking on the "big job" to remove the tree.

Motorways affected, Harbour Bridge closed


A motorist took this photo of the Toll truck on its side after it was hit by a wind gust on the Harbour Bridge.

The northwestern motorway off-ramp at Great North Rd, which was closed earlier because of fallen trees, is now open.

One tree was blown onto the road by high winds last night and just as contractors had cleared it, a second tree was blown down.

The Auckland Harbour Bridge had to be closed for a time after wind gusts made the structure move.

NZTA's Ewart Barnsley says lanes one and two southbound were closed early this morning because of the trailer of a Toll Transport truck that rolled just before 3am. It was blocking the clip-on.

"Even though it seems that the worst of the storm may have passed, we're just asking drivers to take extreme care.

"Driving's going to be a bit of a challenge getting into work this morning."

Ewart Barnsley says that means keeping a good following distance, lights on, and speed down.


Boats break moorings, Bayswater Wharf closed


King Edward Parade, Devonport. Photo / Mark Rushworth

An Auckland Council spokesman said a few boats had ripped from their moorings overnight, but no serious damage had taken place.

The boat that had run up against the Harbour Bridge had now run aground, and a team was being sent out to secure it and return it to its mooring, he said.

Bayswater Wharf is closed due to extreme damage and power failure, Fullers said in a Facebook post.

Ferry services are closed at Northcote Point due to power issues to the wharf ramp.

Birkenhead HOP card machines are also not operating due to power issues, the company said.


Damage in Laingholm. Photos / Cameron Nicholson

Woman struck and killed by car

Last night Waikato police issued a warning to motorists after the death of an 80-year-old woman struck by a car as she walked across a pedestrian crossing near Ngaruawahia yesterday morning.

The district road policing manager, Inspector Freda Grace, urged drivers to be alert because of bad weather forecasts and heavy traffic flows for National Fieldays starting today.

Mrs Grace said it was too early to know what caused the incident which led to the pedestrian's death, but everyone needed to be alert because of the weather.

"This week is probably the busiest period on Waikato roads of the year and the forecast is for rain and poor visibility."

The complicated nature and small size of the low pressure system means rainfall may be intense for some, but only drizzly for others - as happened yesterday.


Flooding yesterday beside Kiwitahi Road, Woodhill. Photo / Liz Coombs

Canterbury bears the brunt of flooding

In some of the worst flooding yesterday, emergency services helped evacuate 21 elderly dementia patients from a flooded North Canterbury rest home.

The residents spent last night in an emergency welfare centre after a torrential downpour caused a stream behind Bainlea House to breach its banks.

Civil Defence response teams pumped water from houses in the area. Residents waded through flooded streets in an attempt to unblock drains, while children played on inflatable dinghies.

Flooding closed the Rangiahua bridge on State Highway One at Horeke in Northland last night.

State Highway 10 near Kaeo in Northland was also affected by flooding and restricted to one lane.

NZ Transport Agency regional journey manager Jacqui Hori-Hoult said winds had brought down trees in Northland and rain had caused flooding.

"With night falling so quickly at this time of year, it is a case of expecting the unexpected particularly in rural areas with little street lighting.

"People should drop speeds and increase following distances to reduce the risk of a crash if a vehicle ahead has to brake suddenly."


Damage in Castor Bay, Auckland. Photo / Supplied by a Herald reader

MetService forecaster Leigh Matheson said Northland and Auckland residents would not get any respite from the weather until this morning.

"All through that region there will be significant gales ... it could be hazardous for eastern areas of Auckland," she said.

"[This] morning everything should be much quieter. The rains should have eased right off and the winds dropped right out."

MetService says the front will then probably move from Auckland and Northland, and onto Gisborne and Hawkes Bay for the next two days. Ms Matheson said the western Bay of Plenty could get up to 200mm of rain in 48 hours.

In Canterbury, the worst would have passed by today.

"The sun may turn up on Friday. It's a pretty wet week, is the general theme."

- Additional reporting Newstalk ZB

- APNZ

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