Wild storm hits Wairarapa

By Andrew Bonallack editor@age.co.nz -
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Wednesday morning's storm put on a show for Eketahuna residents. PHOTO/ANDREW BONALLACK
Wednesday morning's storm put on a show for Eketahuna residents. PHOTO/ANDREW BONALLACK

ANYONE close to the Tararua Ranges survived a wild Tuesday night and Wednesday morning, as lightning storms and hailstones pounded residents.

One homeowner west of Eketahuna described the storm as "absolutely unbelievable" and like nothing he had experienced in the nine years he had lived at the foothills.

His home lost power during the storm, which included hailstones "the size of marbles".

"It was the roughest night we've ever had, with big bursts of thunder -- it was just so bloody noisy."

He lost power around 10pm on Tuesday after a massive thunderclap, and spent Wednesday at home checking his rural property.

Powerco confirmed there were four power outage calls from the Eketahuna area, "most likely" due to lightning strikes.

Eketahuna resident Fiona Elton said she was too scared to take a look outside, but said the lightning and thunder were continual through the night.

"It was horrendous, I've never, ever experienced a thunderstorm like that," she said. "It was incredibly loud, like someone slapping something outside my bedroom window."

An Eketahuna business owner said the "big lightning storm was quite amazing".

"At 2am, 3am, 4am there was loads of lightning, loads of noise.

"One of my customers came in and said a big macrocarpa tree got struck by lightning and blew 50m away."

Jacqui Davies posted on Facebook that it was "horrible" in Eketahuna. "I think I heard the last lot of thunder at 5am."

Michelle Barre said they still had thunder and lightning at 7am in Mauriceville, which had shaken the windows all night.

Masterton and Eketahuna fire crews were called to a reported vehicle crash in wet conditions on State Highway 2 at Kiriwhakapapa at 3am, but the car and driver had deparated.

The low pressure system currently over New Zealand is so large it could engulf Australia, WeatherWatch said.

"While bigger doesn't always mean more aggressive, as the energy is spread over a much larger area, it does explain why the nation is experiencing scattered rough weather and why this has been going on for five days now," the forecaster said in a statement.

"On Thursday the low weakens and by Friday it's gone to our east, as another low forms to our west, and 24 hours after that may also be getting close to the size of Australia as it tracks towards us."

The weather has also been hitting Kiwis in the pocket, with $3.2 million in additional electricity usage consumed over the weekend during the cold snap.

The biggest surge in power use was in the lower North Island, followed by the upper South Island and upper North Island, according to Electricity Authority figures.

Powershop general manager Mark Soper said people budgeting for power would need to put more aside to account for the cold weather.

"The cold snap will stick around for the rest of the week according to MetService and even after that temperatures are only forecast to rise slightly.

"Households are about to be hit with their first significant power costs for the year. Planning for these extra costs now is important to avoid financial stress or debt later on."

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