Power out for thousands in region

SHANE COWLISHAW, MICHELLE DUFF AND MICHAEL FORBES
Last updated 21:25 20/06/2013
LUKE APPLEBY/Fairfax NZ

Images taken around the CBD of Wellington during a fierce southerly storm.

Wellington storm
KIRSTY FARRANT Zoom
A falling tree took out a power pole and lines, blocking Warwick St in the Wellington suburb of Wilton.

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Power is out to more than 30,000 homes across Wellington and a ferry has broken loose from its moorings as one of the worst storm in decades batters the region.

All flights, ferries and train services in and out of the capital are cancelled tonight.

Limited bus services are running inWellington, Eastbourne and the Hutt Valley tonight and tomorrow morning due to the severe weather.

The Kaitaki ferry in Wellington harbour has broken its moorings, and staff were unable to bring it back into berth. An Interislander spokeswoman said the ship had been anchored in the harbour temporarily.

The ferry broke free from it's moorings in a 90 knot southerly gust, or 160 kilometre an hour winds, the spokeswoman said.

Wellington Electricity spokesman Drew Douglas said the weather had caused extensive damage, with affected areas including Titahi Bay, Trentham, Silverstream, Wingate, Wainuiomata, Miramar and Kingsley Heights.

The region-wide power outages and the threat of trees falling on rail lines has also forced all Tranz Metro train services across the region to be cancelled for the night.

A KiwiRail spokeswoman said there were serious safety concerns. "It's quite severe weather out there."

About 7pm, a train travelling north on the Johnsonville line struck a tree that had fallen on the tracks near Ngaio Station. It was able to double back to Crofton Downs Station to drop off passengers before returning to Wellington.

Mr Douglas said work was underway to restore the power supply in Wellington, but the amount of work and weather conditions meant there would be some delays.

People were being asked to stay clear of any fallen powerlines and listen to a portable radio for updates.

Power has also been lost at the TSB Arena, which is hosting the Gold business awards.

Dominion Post reporter Sophie Speer, who is attending the event, said there was back-up power and the situation was quite humorous with everyone dressed up in fine clothes.

"It really does feel like the beginning of a bad horror movie."

Transpower, which manages the national power grid, said there were no power outages but there had been a loss in redundancy in the high voltage system.

Chief executive Patrick Strange said while all power supply is being maintained, lines companies would be dealing with trees damaging infrastructure.

"Wellington will be currently experiencing some flickering of lights, caused by transmission lines that feed into the area clashing together due to high winds.

"We have also lost one circuit from service. The winds are extreme in Wellington currently, and we cannot safely have linemen in the hills until the weather eases."A landslide is also partially 

blocking the Ngauranga Gorge.

Inspector Ian Harris, of Police central communications, said the slip was completely blocking one of the three southbound lanes and partially blocking another, just south of the speed camera.

Contractors were sent to clear the slip just after 7pm, he said.

A spokesman for the NZ Transport Agency said fallen trees and debris were also partially blocking the northbound lanes of State Highway 2 between 

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Ngauranga and Petone. High winds were sending waves crashing up onto the southbound motorway as well, he said.

"We're advising people to just stay at home if they can and only travel if it's absolutely necessary."

Motorists were also being asked to take Hutt Rd rather than the motorway.

Wellington City Council emergency controller Neville Brown said the emergency centre had not been activated, but he was standing by to do so.

"To be honest we've opened the doors but we have not officially called together the emergency centres at this stage."

But standard emergency services were struggling to deal with the volume of callouts and with the storm forecast to continue throughout the night there was a possibility extra help could be needed, he said.

Police have closed Middleton Rd in Johnsonville after a massive tree was ripped up, crushing a ute. It is unknown if the car was occupied at the time.

- The Dominion Post

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