Billboards torn loose as 120kmh winds hit Wellington
Cars and firefighters were almost hit by falling debris as strong winds tore Wellington billboards loose and blew stairs over at the airport.
MetService recorded gusts of 124kmh at the Rimutaka Hill summit, and 120kmh at Mt Kaukau and the suburb of Kelburn on Thursday morning.
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Wellington Airport spokesman Greg Thomas said a set of stairs that were not in use were blown over near gate 21 at the airport about 3.30pm on Thursday.
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It was not near planes or people, he said. "It was stationary and just blew over."
A billboard facade came loose at the top of New Zealand Post House, sending a row of lights crashing 15 storeys onto a fire truck below.
The light fell just after 9am and narrowly missed officers and moving vehicles on Waterloo Quay, along Wellington's busy waterfront.
The fire service has left the scene.
"We left it with the building managers. I think they were going to get abseilers in to fix it," fire service central communications spokesman Murray Dunbar said.
New Zealand Post House was labelled an 'at-risk' building after the magnitude 7.8 quake on November 14, and has been empty since asbestos was found in the stairwells.
On Willis St a large canvas McDonald's billboard - advertising the fact the restaurant sells breakfast at unconventional hours - was torn loose from the side of Victoria University's Cumberland House by the wind.
A police officer at the scene said a team was coming to remove the flapping billboard.
On ground level on Willis, fire crews tended to broken glass after a panel fell and shattered on the street.
It's unclear if the wind was to blame for the glass breaking, but a cordon was in place around the area at midday.
A MetService forecaster said strong northwesterly winds were not expected to ease in Wellington till Thursday evening. There would also be some rain later in the day.
Wellington's East by West Ferries are running a reduced service due ot the wind. Sailings leave Queens Wharf at 4.30pm, 5.30pm, and 6.30pm. They leave Days Bay at 3.15pm, 4.55pm, 5.55pm, and 6.50pm.
At the Basin Reserve, the Black Caps will begin a test match against Bangladesh at 11am, despite gusts taking hold of their gear.