Weather bomb lashes Wellington

MATT STEWART AND BLAIR ENSOR
Last updated 12:50 03/03/2012

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A firefighter has been injured by a falling branch as a storm rips through Wellington, causing the Hutt River to burst its banks.

The storm has brought down power lines, blown over trees and forced yachts from their moorings as gusts in the area reached 93kmh.

The MetService said a new low was forming off the east coast of the lower North Island.

Fire Service central communications shift manager Murray Dunbar said it had been a "full on'' morning for firefighters in central New Zealand. "We haven't had a large weather event like this for quite a while.''

The Fire Service had received 268 emergency calls since 6am today, including 52 weather-related incidents in Wellington.

The storm has also caused significant damage in Taranaki.

LATEST DEVELOPMENTS

- An electricity worker has been taken to hospital with moderate burns after being shocked while working on a substation in Upper Hutt.

- Steve Lacey, a resident in Moores Valley Rd, Wainuiomata, said a tree had fallen bringing down powerlines. He believed about a 100 residents could be without power. "It was a beauty bang. I sat up and [then] boom.''

- A firefighter suffered back injuries after a branch hit her shoulder during an incident in Wainuiomata.

- The Hutt River has burst its banks on Harcourt Werry Dr near the golf course and was partially covering the north bound lane of the road. "It appears to be areasonable distance from homes, Inspector Paul Jermy said. The weather would have to get "quite a bit worse'' before homes were affected, he said.

- Four classrooms have been flooded in the junior block at Fernlea School in Wainuiomata. Two were badly flooded with about 20mm of water across the carpet, said principal Walter Gordon. He said the rooms should be cleaned up for school on Monday.

- A tree fell onto a road in Wainuiomata bringing powerlines down and causing a car to crash into it, but the driver escaped unscathed, police said.

- The Fire Service as been called to reports of flooding at Fernlea School in Wainuiomata.

- There is surface flooding around several streets in Wainuiomata.

- A tree has also fallen in Ngaio Gorge Road and a yacht has broken its mooring at the Clyde Quay Marina in Wellington.

- The exit to Block Road from State Highway 2 is closed due to flooding.

- Passengers flying in and out of Wellington could also face delays after several flights were cancelled this morning.

NEW STORM BREWING

MetService meteorologist Daniel Corbett said the initial low, which wreaked havoc in Whanganui and Taranaki, was slowly dying out as it moved across land. However, a new low was forming off the east coast of the lower North Island.

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In the last couple of hours, a wind gust of 148kmh was recorded at Mt Kaukau while the strongest recorded wind gust at the Wellington Airport was 96kmh.

Castlepoint on the exposed east coast had recorded a maximum gust of about 140kmh.

Mr Corbett said Wellington could expect severe gales and rain to continue this afternoon before easing this evening.

The Wairarapa would be the worst affected area in the Wellington region, he said.

Mr Corbett said the "weather bomb'' had gone according to forecasts,

FIREFIGHTER INJURED

Fitzherbert Rd resident Paul Collins said a firefighter from the Wainuiomata Volunteer Fire Brigade suffered back injuries at his home after a branch fell and hit her on the shoulder.

Mr Collins said a fireman was cutting branches off a tree that had "split'' and was leaning on his house when the incident happened about 10am.

The trunk of the tree "gave way and basically the branch did a little twisted and hit one of the Fire Service people. She copped it fair on the shoulder".

"She was on the ground and they put a tent around her to look after her. They did all the proper procedures.

"We could hear that she was crying. My condolences go out to her family really. It was something as simple as cutting branches off a tree and someone's got injured. It's upsetting."

Mr Collins said a firefighter told him the incident would be investigated by the Department of Labour.

WORKER GETS ELECTRIC SHOCK

An electricity worker has been taken to hospital with moderate burns after getting a shock while working on a substation in Upper Hutt.

The man is thought to be in his 40s and is a linesman for Wellington Electricity.

Just before 2pm he was working at the substation at Gemstone Dr, Birchville, responding to number of outages that had occured in the area because of trees and branches falling on power lines.

Wellington Electricity spokesman Drew Douglas said the incident would be investigated by the company.

Wellington Free Ambulance spokesman David Ross said man was taken to Hutt Hospital emergency department by ambulance with moderate burns and was conscious and alert when paramedics arrived.

A SLEEPLESS NIGHT

Wainuiomata resident Jacinta Hira-Wilson had a sleepness night as high winds howled through her section uprooting a large tree in her backyard, cutting power and ripping guttering from the roof her home in Totara St.

"Very, very strong winds. I was awake most of the night listening to the wind and the rain so I've hardly had any sleep, but we're alive so that's the main thing.”

EVENTS AND SERVICES AFFECTED

  • There are reports of power outages in Raumati South, Tawa and Martinborough.
  • The Martinborough Fair has been cancelled for the first time in 35 years.
  • Some posties will not deliver mail in Wellington because of the bad weather, Radio NZ reports.
  • The Karapoti Classic mountain bike event near Upper Hutt has been postponed until tomorrow.
  • TransMetro put out a statement this morning warning passengers that bus replacements from Porirua to Waikanae may be suspended late due to the weather.
  • Interislander ferries are cancelled expected to sail again tomorrow if the storm had calmed. Travellers were urged to check with airports or ferries before setting off.
  • Today's Taupo's Ironman has been replaced by a shortened event tomorrow.
  • Today's ASB Sunset Sessions event at Shorland Park in Island Bay has been postponed. The free concert featuring Ria Hall and Matthew Pickering will now be held on Tuesday March 6 at 6pm.
  • Sunday’s Sunset Sessions with Phoebe Hurst and Sophie & the Realistic Expectations  are still programmed to go ahead but if the weather doesn’t improve a cancellation decision will be made by 12 noon on Sunday.
  • Today’s Seaweek Community Snorkel Day in the Island Bay Marine Reserve will now take place next Sunday 11 March.
  • The Newtown Festival will still be going ahead on Sunday, but if the weather is still bad then some aspects of the event may change such as using local bars and community centres for the various staged performances.

WHAT IS A WEATHER BOMB?

Yesterday, Civil Defence warned a weather bomb - which involves a rapid decrease in air pressure producing high winds and heavy rain - would hit the area.

"This deep, deep low will barrel in like a bull in a china shop with potentially damaging winds," MetService forecaster Daniel Corbett said.

The weather system was like a cord-propelled spinning top that would uncoil over the region, swirling in a clockwise band before calming by nightfall, he said.

MetService also stressed the severity of the front, carried on an intense low-pressure system from the Tasman Sea, and issued 20 storm warnings yesterday, saying southerly winds could gust to 150kmh in coastal Wairarapa, the Nelson region and Marlborough. Gales would reach 140kmh in Taranaki. Gusts to 120kmh were predicted for surrounding regions.

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