Storm leads to power cut, crash

AIMEE GULLIVER AND ANDREA O'NEIL
Last updated 15:44 24/05/2014
festival
RJTempest / Twitter
Workers try to keep the tent up as the storm hits.

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About 2000 homes are without power in the Wairarapa and Tararua districts tonight after severe winds battered the central North Island for 24 hours.

Power was restored to some of the homes that lost power last night, but more power cuts happened today. Most of the cuts were due to trees blown over on to power lines, a Powerco spokeswoman said.

There had been several reports of power lines falling to the ground in Wairarapa.

Field crews were battling high winds today and tonight as they made repairs to parts of the electricity network. The wind was making it difficult to access the damaged network in Tararua, the spokeswoman said.

Earlier, about 1600 homes were left without power after strong winds battered the lower North Island overnight, downing tree limbs. Powerco hopes to fix the outages between 1pm and 4pm. 

In other storm-related incidents, high winds blew a trailer across the road on State Highway 2 in the Wairarapa. Traffic was flowing again late afternoon.

The accident happened near Ruamahanga Gorge Rd, south of the Mt Bruce summit, a police spokesman said.

A trailer towed by a Ford Ranger ute was blown across the road at around 2.30pm, blocking both lanes. There were no injuries, the spokesman said.

Winds gusts of up to 129kmh had been recorded on the Rimutaka Hill Rd.

Much of the country is experiencing wet and windy weather as two fronts hit south and central New Zealand.

A number of severe weather warnings were in place, with heavy rainfall forecast from northern Westland up to western Nelson, with some spillover in the headwaters of northern Canterbury.

"We are getting some rain into the Wairarapa today which should spread north tomorrow then clear in the likes of Hawke's Bay and Gisborne, but the rest of the country is looking like they'll be in for some showers or rain as the fronts move through," Russell said.

Heavy rain was also expected on the Tararua and Buller ranges.

Strong wind was predicted over central parts of New Zealand both today and tomorrow, with severe gales likely from Canterbury up to Hawke's Bay.

"Damaging wind gusts of 120 to 150 km/h are possible in these areas this afternoon and evening (especially Wairarapa and the Wellington hills), and again during Sunday (especially in Canterbury and the Kaikoura Coast)."

Looking ahead to Sunday, it was still looking wet in the west of the South Island, with rain also spreading to eastern areas during the day.

A "significant cold outbreak" was expected over southern New Zealand from the afternoon, with the potential for snow to disrupt travel in parts of Southland and Otago, and over the Alpine Passes.

It would be worth digging out the winter woollies tomorrow, as frigid temperatures would combine with a brisk southerly wind to to produce an extremely low wind chill effect across the country, MetService said.

A violent storm that earlier struck a Southland oyster festival has now hit Dunedin.

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Strong winds and hail are pounding some areas of the city.

The storm moved in quickly. Around 3.20pm the Otago Peninsula was bathed in sunshine. By 3.30pm it was blanketed in blizzarding hail. Power has also been cut to some parts. 

Further south, thousands of people fleeing from the Bluff Food and Oyster Festival after the storm hit were stuck in their cars for about two hours.

Senior Sergeant Dave Scott of the police District Command Centre said about 4500 people were trying to leave Bluff when power lines were blown onto a car on State Highway 1 around 1pm.

The car's occupants stayed where they were and called for assistance. Both lanes of the road were closed for about two hours, until linesmen were able to fix the problem around 3pm.

People had been forced to evacuate the festival after the storm whalloping much of New Zealand today toppled tents and tables and even knocked people off their feet.

Bright sunshine greeted early arrivals but the stormy weather set in about noon. People inside the tents were heard yelling as the storm forced a dramatic end to the festival.

Monica Toretto, one of the organisers, tweeted that the festival was cancelled because it was too dangerous - but those that stayed seemed to be having a good time.

- Stuff

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