High winds batter Wellington region
Winds fell trees, delay flights, injure peopleSHABNAM DASTGHEIB
Gale force winds blew a branch off a tree which injured a couple, blew a truck off the road, and forced passengers to use oxygen masks on aborted flights to Wellington Airport.
A large tree was blown onto a house in Wainuiomata and had to be removed by fire services using a chainsaw.
Gale force winds of up to 120kmh have been recorded in Wellington today and MetService has warning residents to take precautions.
Couple hit by falling branch
An elderly Greytown couple out for a walk were hit by a large pine tree branch brought down by high winds today.
The Fire Service were called just after 11.30am.
By the time they arrived the couple had been carried from under the branch, chief fire officer Harry Howard said.
The couple suffered broken bones and bumps to the head and were taken to Wairarapa Hospital.
One is in serious condition and the other is in moderate condition.
Tree falls on house
Fire services were called to Meremere Street in Wainuiomata just before 12.30pm after a large tree was blown onto a house.
Wellington fire shift manager Mike Wanoa said the tree was cleared quickly by fire fighters with chainsaws.
The house was empty when neighbours called emergency services.
Despite the strong winds the fire service had not been run off its feet, Mr Wanoa said.
"We have had about 15 extra events because of the wind, but nothing too serious.
"You get these kinds of days every now and then."
Truck blown off road
A truck and trailer unit was blown off the road on Makomako Rd, near Palmerston North, about 10am.
The truck was travelling west from Pahiatua to Palmerston North when it veered off the road and crashed through a fence.
Senior Constable Grant Taylor said the wind was to blame for the truck being pushed on to its side. The vehicle did not appear to have any faults, he said.
"I've got no reason to doubt it with the wind that's blowing at the moment,'' he said.
The trailer, which ended up on its side, was empty at the time.
Nobody was hurt in the crash.
Plane aborts landing attempts
High winds forced a plane to abort two landing attempts in Wellington this morning, with the plane having to return to Auckland.
Air New Zealand flight 417 failed to land and was turned back to Auckland.
Air New Zealand spokesman Mark Street said the pilot made two attempts to land but conditions were too blustery and the flight had to turn back to Auckland.
"It was a bit too dangerous for us to land but we managed to get everyone on replacement flights with no trouble."
Once the flight landed in Auckland the passengers, some returning from long-haul travel, were put on flights back to Wellington.
Air New Zealand communications manager Mike Todd said the plane tried to land at Wellington Ariport twice but the wind prevented that.
Marguerite Christopher had been in Auckland at the triathalon on the weekend and finally arrived in Wellington at 1.40pm after her original flight was unable to land.
"It was crazy windy out there. We could see the buildings of Wellington but before we knew it we were on our way back to Auckland.
"There were quite a few panic attacks on board but the Air New Zealand staff were brilliant."
Christopher said oxgen masks were pulled down for those who were panicking.
Wellington Airport has a reputation for stomach-churning landings and is considered one of the most thrilling airports in the world for landings.
Twelve callouts for Fire Service
The Fire Service has attended 12 weather-related callouts this morning in Wellington, Masterton and Eketahuna.
Those call-outs were related to trees down in some places, as well as telephone and power lines down, Wellington fire shift commander Mike Wanoa said.
He said to have 12 callouts with such high winds was not many. "We got away with it this time".
High winds have also been causing problems in Wellington Harbour today.
A large, high-sided car carrier was unable to berth at Aotea Quay this morning because of the weather.
Harbourmaster Mike Pryce said the Trans Future 5 had arrived about 10.15am and had not been able to berth. The carrier circled near the heads where the wind was calmer until things died down. Winds were gusting 55 knots in the harbour. The ship finally berthed at Aotea Quay at 4:10pm.
East by West ferries had been cancelled though other ferries were running at this stage.
Southerly change coming
Forecaster Oliver Druce said it was going to be a stormy day. "We will have gale force winds with big gusts. There will be north-west gales and rain until 6pm this evening when there will be a southerly change."
Things were set to "miraculously clear up" later tonight but not before the winds grew stronger.
Winds of up to 120kmh were recorded in Kelburn this morning.
Campers who stayed in Wairarapa overnight for the Toast Martinborough festival woke to high winds this morning.
MetService warned the winds had the potential to damage insecure structures, trees and powerlines and make driving difficult, especially for high-sided vehicles and motorcycles.
People were advised to secure any loose objects.
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- The Dominion Post
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