Teuila Fuatai

Teuila Fuatai is a reporter for the NZ Herald

Wild winds lash Auckland as front moves up country

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Wild winds are have been lashing Auckland city today, with shattered windows< lifted roofs and runaway trampolines.

Reports are coming in to emergency services from different areas of the city - including a trampoline that's ended up on power lines in Mangere.

A gust blew out glass panels from an overhead covering at a central city hotel.

Three glass panels were shattered by an upward gust of wind at the Rydges Hotel on Federal Street.

No one was injured in the incident which took place before midday.

The Fire Service was called to make it safe, smashing out and removing the damaged panes.

Sally Stoikos, who was visiting Auckland with her family from Melbourne, said they saw the firefighters using hammers and axes to remove the broken glass.

Pedestrians in the central city were seen clinging to poles as the wind hit.

Power has been knocked out in Whitford, near Flatbush, and there are reports the roof on the Countdown in Papkura on Great South Rd is lifting.

Trees have fallen on a houses in Avondale and bricks have been ripped off a two-storey house in Parnell.

Beachhaven resident Jackie Gray said a trampoline from across the street flew over the fence and into her front yard.

"It would have come inside. It was just hanging on the bush, thank God my hedge was big enough.

"The neighbour and police came, and we just held it down.''

The trampoline was now being weighted down by ``bits of concrete''. It was also tied down, she said.

"I was scared. Bits of metal - the legs were metal - and all over the road. It basically would have come through the window.

Mrs Gray said once the Fire Service arrived, they helped secure her neighbour's garage roof in place which had been lifting off in the wind.

Next door, a tree about 8m tall fell onto the roof of a home.

Mrs Gray husband Stu, a local drainlayer, was helping property owner Julie Chessum clean up.

"It could have been a lot worse,'' he said. "The local community constable came down and he actually took the main parts down and we followed up quickly.''

Mrs Chessum said her tenant, who wasn't home at the time, would be surprised to have "a lot more light" streaming into her home.

"I'm just glad no one was hurt and my house in not hurt either.''

Power lines have snapped on Mangere's Tennessee Ave.

Mangere Fire Station officer Roy Harris said a "weather bomb or wind bomb'' had caused the lines to snap.

"We've got multiple power lines down through here.

"A really big gust of wind has just broken [the lines].

"Just on the way as we were coming over here there were calls to fences down, someone was looking after a roof off, trampolines have been flying around.

"It's just really big gusts of wind that just suddenly increase that force on things until it bursts.''

Mr Harris said some houses had lost power as a result of the downed lines.

"We're still waiting for the power authority to come and isolate the power and make it safe.''

The downed lines had been arcing but that had ceased after the relays tripped, he said.

Tennessee Ave resident Timote Tuioala said he heard a big bang and saw the downed lines sparking once he left his house.

"After that it was blowing up. It was really badlike 'boom'.''

Southwest wind gusts 110kph southwest wind gusts have been reported at Dairy Flat airfield and there are very high winds up at the Oratia end of Glen Eden.

Fire Service comms said there were a large number of incidents in the Auckland region because of the high winds, including cladding lifting, trees down on roads and roofs lifting.

Around 17 fire trucks were in operation around the area.

There were unconfirmed reports of a small tornado on the North Shore.

Fullers said that Northcote Point was now closed for ferry services until further notice.

WeatherWatch.co.nz said winds were reaching gale force at times with gusts to 90km/h.

Winds of this speed are mostly below damaging threshold but wind tunnels such as in the CBD between buildings, and parts of exposed suburbs could see minor damage, especially branches breaking and powerlines being broken.

The warm wind direction had already pushed Auckland's high up to 21C, well above what both main forecasters were predicting.

"This is the rough weather that was expected to arrive around dawn, but is running a few hours late'' said head weather analyst Philip Duncan.

"This afternoon in Auckland winds will change from gale nor'westers to blustery sou'westers''.

The worst of the winds was at 11.30am, with gale force northerlies gusting near 100km/h. By 12pm winds were just below gale threshold.


As the wind changes direction it meant some will have conditions ease while others will see winds building.

"Generally speaking we expect the worst of the winds to be around the time of the wind transition, which is midday'' Mr Duncan said.

The gusty winds were not going to be a repeat of what Wellington had yesterday though, with WeatherWatch.co.nz saying that for the most part today's wind was strong simply because it's a northerly.

Rising waters are threatening to cut off Ohura and flood parts of Ohakune, Ruapehu District Council says.

It had sent staff to monitor the situation and council contractors had been put on stand-by.

Residents in affected areas were asked to listen to local radio and check the council website for announcements.

Flooding concerns in Ruapehu

Meanwhile rising waters are threatening to cut off Ohura and flood parts of Ohakune, Ruapehu District Council says.

It had sent staff to monitor the situation and council contractors had been put on stand-by.

Residents in affected areas were asked to listen to local radio and check the council website for announcements.

Police said State Highway 4 between Wanganui and Raetihi had been closed until further notice

Road authorities reported that slips and adverse conditions had made the area unsafe, requiring closure of that stretch of road while they tried to clear debris.

Around half a dozen Ohakune residents living on the Mangawhero River Terrace extension had left the as the river continued to rise.

Ruapehu District Council has established a welfare centre at the Ohakune Primary School hall.

Council chief executive and Civil Defence controller Peter Till advised any residents who feel that they are at risk should self-evacuate.

The council had also received reports that there was flooding across State Highway 4 at Erua.

Raetihi was also experiencing flooding.

Several houses in Grey St and Ballance St were surrounded by water though it hasn't gone into homes yet.

Ruapehu College in Ohakune has closed for the day because buses wouldn't be able to get students home with the Mangawhero River looking dangerous.

The Whanganui River was 12 metres at Pipiriki at midday and rising rapidly. It's the highest it's been in 10 years.

Weather aftermath

There were narrow escapes as wild weather lashed the lower North Island yesterday - ripping roofs from buildings, blowing cars over, shattering windows and sending scaffolding tumbling into the path of pedestrians.

Power was cut to thousands of houses and flights were cancelled in and out of Wellington, affecting 3500 passengers.

But, while many residents will be left facing a major clean-up today, there were no reports of any serious injury despite gusts exceeding 130km/h across parts of the South Island and lower North Island.

'Next stop, the panel beaters,' says Matt in Wiri. Photo / supplied
'Next stop, the panel beaters,' says Matt in Wiri. Photo / supplied

POWER STILL OUT TO 1800

The winds knocked out power to thousands of homes in Canterbury, Manawatu and Wairarapa.

While repair crews worked frantically yesterday and through the night, managing to restore power to many customers, at least 1800 homes in the North Island still have no electricity.

Lines company Powerco, which supplies electricity to properties in Wairarapa, Manawatu and Wanganui, said staff from around the country were helping with repairs.

In Canterbury, lines company Orion said about 200 homes in west-Christchurch were still without electricity.

Crews were expected to have them back online today, a spokesman said.

CARE NEEDED IN WELLINGTON

At the height of the storm, windows were shattered in Wellington and fences and outdoor furniture flung across yards. In some areas fallen lines set trees alight, while motorists faced numerous narrow escapes.

Four shipping containers were blown over in the gales. The incident at Wellington's CentrePort was witnessed by chef Martin Bosley.

"I was in the restaurant and I heard this loud crashing noise and I looked across the harbour just to see three or four containers getting just blown over," he told Radio New Zealand.

Centreport chief executive Blair O'Keeffe confirmed that four containers had fallen down, but none had gone into the sea.

A number of pedestrians in the capital had a narrow escape when two-storey-high scaffolding collapsed on Willis St.

Ferry Hendrikx witnessed bits of plywood torn from the construction site being blown about "like bits of paper in the wind" and said the sight was "quite incredible".

He said the structure came crashing down within a matter of two to three seconds, as passersby ran for safety.

Wellington City Council spokesman Richard MacLean warned residents to be careful when travelling around the city this morning.

"The extreme winds that hit the city yesterday had rapidly abated by midnight and there is hardly a breeze in the city this morning,'' he said.

Motorists, motorcyclists and cyclists should watch out for fallen trees, slips and debris on roads around the city.

"There have been reports of windows blown in by the wind late last night at several sites around the CBD, so there may still be broken glass on some footpaths,'' Mr MacLean said.

"Willis Street in the CBD is now open to buses and other traffic following rapid work overnight to make safe the construction site where a large scaffolding structure collapsed about 4.30pm yesterday at the height of the storm. A large digger was used to demolish and flatten the partly collapsed structure overnight.''

PLANES BACK IN THE AIR

Three flights were cancelled at Wellington Airport this morning.

A spokesman said the three flights - two arrivals and one departure all scheduled before 7.30am - had been cancelled last night.

Cancellations to flights yesterday disrupted the travel plans of 3500 people.

Wellington Airport this morning said weather was not expected to be a problem today.

FIRE SERVICE: QUIET NIGHT AFTER FRANTIC DAY


The Fire Service also had a relatively quiet night, after a frantic day yesterday.

Central communications shift manager David Meikle said officers responded to about a dozen weather-related calls, all before midnight.

One involved a truck being blown over on the road between Dannevirke and Norsewood. There were no injuries, he said.

In the South Island, Mr Meikle's colleague Brent Dunn said there were no weather-related calls after 7pm.

CHAOS FOR WAIRARAPA MOTORISTS


In Wairarapa, a trailer unit was hurled on to its side and a motorist who had just dropped her young daughter at daycare was left shaken and covered in glass when her windscreen shattered.

Jill Willmott of Featherston felt lucky her 3-year-old wasn't in the vehicle when it "just exploded" during a big gust, as some of the glass hit her face and neck.

"I've never experienced anything like that."

Mrs Willmott said it felt like the car was going to lift up when the gust hit.

Freightline Transport driver Pat Mulligan faced a harrowing few moments of terror as his trailer unit was hurled on to its side as he drove south on State Highway 2, near Mt Bruce.

"It happened so quickly," he said. "I'd just slowed down, buttoned off a bit. I was going to stop and open the curtains, then I felt her go.

"It was on an angle. I thought the whole truck was going to go. It happened in slow motion ... It's pretty fierce winds."

High winds knocked a tree on to a car in the same area - no one was injured - and fire crews were called in at Kaituna, west of Masterton, when two trees brought down power lines. One of the trees caught fire.

Pauline Harwood of Mt Holdsworth, also west of Masterton, returned home to find a trailer from which she runs her business, Lavender Magic, in tatters.

The trailer had been thrown against a roller door then dumped upside down a few metres away from its original spot.

On Ohiro Rd a trampoline awaits the next gust. Photo / Peter O'Carroll
On Ohiro Rd a trampoline awaits the next gust. Photo / Peter O'Carroll

"It's like a tornado came through and picked it up from in front of the shed and threw it," Ms Harwood said. "There's a huge hole in the shed. It's been completely flipped over."

Her yard was also littered with pot plants and wooden outdoor furniture thrown about by the swirling winds.

A large chair was also blown through her front door, leaving a huge hole and shattered glass everywhere.

METSERVICE: FRONT WILL WEAKEN


MetService duty forecaster Leigh Matheson said the front was due to move north and weaken as it crossed the country today.

Hawkes Bay and Gisborne could, however, expect gusts of around 100km/h, while Auckland could expect rain and blustery winds.

In Wellington, Shelly Bay Rd on the Miramar Peninsula will be closed - between the Shelly Bay defence base and Scorching Bay - due to a tree blocking the road.


- additional reporting APNZ

- NZ Herald

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

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