Commuter chaos expected as 'bomb low' causes flooding and power cuts in south

Severe gales are expected in the capital today as a summer "bomb low" continues to affect the country.

The bomb low - a term for a rapidly deepening low pressure centre - hit yesterday causing surface flooding in the South Island, and power outages, ferry cancellations and a traffic light to topple over in Wellington.

The wind is expected to peak about 9am in Wellington, with severe gales and gusts of up to 160km/h possible. The gusts follow severe overnight gales in Wellington, Wairarapa, Marlborough and parts of Canterbury.

Heavy rain, which caused surface flooding on several highways yesterday, is expected to ease in the South Island this morning.


The upper North Island will largely escape the wild weather, but rain is expected around the middle of the day in Auckland.

NZTA is warning drivers in Wellington and Wairarapa to take care as trees and debris could fall on roads.

Mark Owen, of NZTA, said winds of this strength can blow vehicles around, especially on State Highway 2 over the Rimutaka Hill.

"Particularly through the cuttings where you get accentuated wind, there's a risk they could get blown off the road or at worse into the path of an oncoming vehicle."

Meanwhile, Wellington City Council is keeping a close eye on demolition sites across the city.

Trolley buses were stopped temporarily yesterday and all ferries out of the capital were cancelled last night. Strong winds knocked a traffic light over in the city centre and a power pole reportedly blew over.

The MetService has also issued a strong wind warning for the Selwyn area, in central Canterbury, forecasting northwest gales gusting to 150km/h in exposed places until mid-morning.

The Selwyn District Council fears a repeat of the September 2013 windstorm which caused $75 million damage nationwide, damaging farm equipment, buildings and forestry plantations. Some areas in Selwyn were without power for more than a week.


Council principal rural fire officer Douglas Marshall said people should avoid operating machinery, or anything that could start a fire and to make sure previously lit fires are fully extinguished.

"Strong winds along with hot weather will create an extreme fire risk and fires will be difficult to control due to the extreme winds," he told the website.

The National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research said incredible rain totals were expected for the west of the South Island, including in the Southern Alps where almost half a metre of rain was forecast.