Wild weather causes havoc

By Patrice Dougan

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A storm is causing havoc across the upper part of the North island this evening, with warnings stronger winds and more rain is on the way.

Auckland is already suffering damaging wind and heay rain this evening but forecasters warn the storm has yet to bring its worst to the city.

The centre of the storm was brushing Whangarei this evening, with winds becoming stronger, said WeatherWatch.

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"The strongest winds are currently wrapped around the centre of this storm, which is tracking to the southwest from the northeast,'' said head weather analyst Philip Duncan.

"We've had reports of power cuts, wind damage and some frightening wind gusts across Whangarei and Kamo and right across to western Northland this evening.

"The eye of the storm, if you like, will cross parts of Northland, south of Whangarei, in the next couple of hours.''

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He said the centre of the storm would hit the Auckland region around midnight.

The western Coromandel Peninsula and eastern Waikato were expected to feel the brunt of the gales.

Mr Duncan said the Coromandel region had already experienced strong winds today, with one WeatherWatch online reader reporting it as ``furiously windy''.

The strong winds have already caused problems in the Auckland region, with reports of trees being blown down and multiple slips. Exposed coastal areas and gulf islands have experienced winds of up to 100km/h.

The Fire Service reported powerlines on fire at Te Atatu, as well as multiple tree damage, including a tree endangering a house in Paeroa, and trees blocking roads at near the High Court in the city and at Waihi and Kawakawa Bay.

Part of a fence around Old Government House at the University of Auckland was damaged by a falling tree.

Police in Coromandel advised motorists to avoid State Highway 25 between Thames and Whitianga due to slips and fallen trees, and Shakespeare Road in Milford was also blocked due to a fallen tree.

A number of domestic Air NZ flights into and out of Auckland Airport have been cancelled tonight and others have been delayed.

A large truck which left State Highway 2 today at Mangatarata, spilling its plywood load, was believed to have been blown over by strong winds.

Homes in Papamoa and Welcome Bay in the Bay of Plenty were without power this afternoon after trees brought down powerlines.

MetService forecaster Dan Corbett earlier described the weather as "like a big boomerang of rain that's just sweeping in from the gulf''.

He said the low pressure would lead to a higher tide, which, coupled with a heavy swell and high winds, could mean some coastal flooding.

Police advised that State Highway 25 from Jellicoe Crescent to Maramarahi Road south of Thames township and SH25 from Victoria Street North to Coromandel Township would be closed from about 9pm because of an incoming tide which reaches high tide at 10pm.

Slips and downed trees had worsened the problems.

Thames Township and residents further up the highway would not be able to leave or re-enter the area until the tide subsided and any damage repaired or removed.

Locals were encouraged to stay indoors and not travel.

Auckland Council and Civil Defence said low-lying coastal roads and reserves were likely to be affected, particularly either side of the peak tide at 11pm.

The wild weather is expected to build in the lower North Island tonight, peaking tomorrow morning, particularly inland Manawatu, Horowhenua and Kapiti.

Central Plateau and Taupo will also feel the force of ``gusty and potentially damaging winds'' overnight.

Meanwhile, power has now been restored to all Orion customers affected by the severe wind storm which struck Canterbury on Tuesday, September 10, leaving 28,000 homes without electricity.

Auckland Council is providing updates on facebook.com/aklcouncil, and on twitter @aklcouncil.

Flooding should be reported to Auckland Council on 09 301 0101.

Severe weather warnings:

Heavy rain: Eastern hills of Northland, Coromandel Peninsula, Gisborne, Hawke's Bay and hills south of Cape Kidnappers, Eastern Marlborough, including the Sounds and Kaikoura Coast and Ranges.

Strong winds: Northland, Auckland, Coromandel Peninsula, Eastern Waikato, The central North Island high country from Mangakino to the lee of the Ruahine Range, Taranaki, Horowhenua and the Kapiti Coast, also the Marlborough Sounds.

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- APNZ

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