Rain, wind hit Wellington region
Wellington awoke from a night of thunder and tree-splitting lightning, and then came a downpour which closed roads and flooded shops ''like a tidal wave''.
COMMUTERS DELAYED BY WEATHER
Air New Zealand has suspended all flights out of Wellington Airport.
Flights from Palmerston North, Nelson and Timaru and planes leaving Wellington for New Plymouth, Rotorua, Timaru, Gisborne, Christchurch and Invercargill were cancelled.
Many other flights faced delays.
An airport spokeswoman said she did not know when services would return to normal.
Rush hour bus services have been hit by delays and cancellations to the 7, 22 and 10 routes.
CARPARK FLOODING CAUSES THOUSANDS IN DAMAGE
As many as 20 cars could have thousands of dollars of damage or more after a basement carpark flooded in Newtown this morning.
The Alfred St carpark is used by staff at the Wellington Accident and Urgent Medical Centre and residents who live above the clinic.
Owen Svensson never takes his car to work but looked outside today and decided it was a good idea.
That decision saved his vehicle from the flooded basement but his belongings in the flat lock-ups down there weren't so lucky.
"I left about 7.40am and it was raining pretty hard so decided to drive, which I never normally do,'' he said.
"My fiancee called three hours later saying she thought there might be a bit of flooding so I came home to have a look.''
Alfred St was completely submerged in water and up to the windows on cars parked on the side of the street.
Cars parked in the basement were practically floating, Wellington central fire senior station officer Nick Pyatt said.
"There's a whole transformer under the carpark so we've got the power turned off and now that we've pumped out the alley we can get started on the carpark.''
Anthony Blanche works at Coventry Cars on Alfred St and said by about 9.30am the street was waist-deep in water.
Busy scooping the last of the water out of his car parked on the side of the street was Dave O'Donovan.
He's been living and working on the street for 18 months and never seen anything like the rainfall that filled his car.
"I'll be waiting for some favourable weather now so I can open it up and let it dry out,'' he said.
Mr Pyatt said the fire service had been flat out in the central city and eastern suburbs responding to calls.
"The worst I've seen so far is Hania St off Kent Tce,'' he said.
"It was up over our gumboots and there was nothing we could do so we just had to leave it to subside on its own.''
THUNDER AND LIGHTNING HITS WELLINGTON
MetService recorded more than 500 lightning strikes in central New Zealand last night - about 100 of them in Wellington.
Then a massive downpour as Wellingtonians were arriving to work delivered 12.6mm of rain at Wellington Airport in the hour to 9am, causing flooding around Wellington.
''The next hour or two, oh boy, watch out,'' Dan Corbett from MetService said at 9am.
By 10am, 35.2mm of rain had fallen.
Shandon Golf Club groundskeeper Greg Galway was at home, about 150m away from the tree, when an enormous roll of thunder came hard after a lightning flash during the storm about 9.30pm yesterday.
''The lightning was still going when the thunder struck, so I knew it was close.
''It made me drop what I was doing, it was freaky.''
This morning he found one of the Petone club's larger pines shattered, with bark stripped off the trunk in a spiral running down the trunk.
''It's blown the bark off a good 50 metres, and there's a good seam where it's split the trunk down the middle.
The tree was at least 90 years old.
As the downpour came this morning, emergency services and Wellington City Council were flooded with calls.
Reports of flooding came from Moa Point, Kilbirnie, Newtown, Lyall Bay, Brooklyn, Melrose, Karori, Hataitai, Wilton, Mornington, Basin Reserve, Kent Tce, the central city, and Kaiwharawhara.
Tony's Tyre Service, Kilbirnie assistant manager George Georgiou said the water came in to his store ''like a tidal wave'' when the stormwater drains reached capacity.
''Front door, back door, water just came in all directions.''
At its peak about 30cm of water was on the shop floor, Mr Georgiou said.
Further up Bay Rd, Lorraine Swetman, co-ordinator at the Kilbirnie Red Cross store was alerted to the scale of flooding by a neighbouring shop owner.
The stormwater had pushed a manhole cover off and water was gushing out, she said.
''It was all just coming in here like a waterfall.''
The Old Bank Arcade on Lambton Quay felt the full effects of the downpour and the nearby Hare Krishna Higher Taste Restaurant flooded as a result.
Shortly before 9am the basement level restaurant was ankle-deep in water and staff were rushing to move kitchen equipment and food to a drier place, Mukesh Chand from the restaurant said.
Wellington bus commuters experienced long delays after a bus broke down on the corner of Manners St and Victoria St.
All East by West ferry sailings were cancelled for the rest of the day, but there would be replacement shuttles departing from Queens Wharf at 4.30pm, 5.30pm and 6.30pm.
Some flights were delayed at Wellington Airport.
- Reporting from Tom Hunt, Jo Moir, Sam Boyer, Alex Fensome and Karoline Tuckey.
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The Dominion Post