Harsh storm hammers capital

TOM HUNT, SIOBHAN DOWNES AND KAY BLUNDELL
Last updated 17:13 05/03/2014

Damage in Lyall Bay

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Wellington Weather

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Logs have been left strewn across Wellington's south coast after massive waves and winds of more than 100kmh pummeled the capital.

MetService is warning of more southerly gales and rain today before the low disappears.

The road around Moa Point on Wellington's South Coast was closed this morning after a 10m-long slip came down from an embankment near the end of the Wellington Airport runway, onto the road.

The road was cleared and re-opened by midday, Wellington City Council spokesman Clayton Anderson said. 

Do you have any wild weather photos? Email us them, with details, to web@dompost.co.nz

Four incoming flights were cancelled and others were delayed this afternoon according to Wellington Airport’s website.

Three outgoing flights have also been cancelled.

Meanwhile Cook Strait ferry sailings resumed this afternoon, after 24 hours of cancellations.

BEARING THE BRUNT

Kerryn Brodie of The Esplanade, Island Bay, said when the high tide mixed with the wind last night it felt like ''a bomb'' going off.

By about 10pm, debris, logs, and a large chunk of concrete were strewn across the road, which was also badly hit in the June storm.

She applauded Wellington City Council contractors, who had the road largely cleared by 11.30pm.

While the June storm caused worse damage, last night's was easily comparable in terms of how it felt in her South Coast-facing home.

She expected more similar storms in the future with rising sea levels and global warming.

Further around the coast in Owhiro Bay, diggers were this morning clearing the road.

Resident Andrew Batt said last night was nowhere near as bad as June but was ''certainly pretty exciting''.

He invited neighbours over during high tide at about 8.30pm for a glass of wine and ''to see it through''.

Reece Kohatu's Lyall Bay home suffered extensive damage in the June storm, which washed away his sea wall and flooded his basement.

Last night's wind was less severe but waves still crashed into his front yard as his sea wall was still not repaired.

An exceptionally high tide last night worsened matters and he suspected water would have again got in his basement.

Lyall Bay's Gemma Toothill said roofing iron from a building site was blowing across Hungerford Rd when she went to work at 6.15am. 

CHOCOLATE TRUCK STRANDED

Stranded chocolate load truck driver Ian Mayne counted his lucky stars this morning the Wellington sun was not shining.

He had 58 pallets of Easter bunny chocolate loaded on his truck and was worried the Wellington sun might melt it. He needn't have worried.  

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Mr Mayne was one of about 30 truck drivers forced to spend the night in the cabs of their trucks at the Interislander terminal when Cook Strait ferry sailings were cancelled because of high seas last night.

His truck and trailer unit was loaded with chocolate destined for The Warehouse market in Christchurch when he received the word about 5pm last night he would be stranded in Wellington.

''I was due to sail at 8pm last night. I was given the word from my dispatcher to make sure the truck was not parked up in the sun. The dispatcher need not have bothered. 

''There's no worries about the chocolate melting on the wharf in this weather.

''I told him I wouldn't need to park up in the shade. It's not exactly tropical down here,'' Mr Mayne said.

Swells in Cook Strait, which ran up to 8.5 metres high last night, and resulted in Interislander cancelling freight and passenger sailings, had caught a lot of his truckie colleagues by surprise. 

''Normally we get a heads up so we can make other arrangements when the weather turns bad.

''I live in Palmerston North and normally would have parked up there (in Palmerston North) while the ferries were not running. 

''I was inbound to Wellington and it was too late to turn back when I got the news we would be stranded,'' Mr Mayne said.

He expects to have his Easter bunnies moving south out of Wellington this afternoon when either the Arahura or Stena Alegra resume freight sailings between Wellington and Picton.

Bluebridge last night cancelled three return sailings between Picton and Wellington but services were returned to normal today. However, some delays could be expected as a backlog was cleared, spokeswoman Wendy Pannett said.

LOOSE ROOFS

The Fire Service was called to scaffolding that came loose in Seatoun, while a roof began to lift off elsewhere in Wellington overnight, while the coastal road between Seaview and Eastbourne had debris on the road but remained open.

WILD WEATHER

MetService forecaster Heath Gullery said Wellington's strongest gust was Mt Kaukau above Wellington which had a 110kmh gust at 3am.

Kelburn had a 100kmh gust at 6am and Wellington airport reached 95kmh at 3am.

In Wairarapa, which was also expected to face the brunt of the low which spun up the east coast of the South Island yesterday, Masterton recorded a 95kmh gust at 3am.

But Mr Heath warned coastal areas of Wairarapa may still have the worst to come today.

Today would be wet with southerly gales but by tomorrow the wind and rain should be gone for a fine day, he said.

Cook Strait waves were averaging about 5m from peak to trough this morning with the occasional large wave of 10m, Mr Heath said.

MetService severe weather forecaster Chris Noble said the wild weather should ease off through the afternoon.

"We've probably seen the peak of the storm in most areas, particularly the eastern coast from Canterbury to Wellington and Wairarapa," he said.

A high coming across the Tasman Sea tonight meant the weather would "settle down a bit" tomorrow.

TRANSPORT AFFECTED

The rough weather in Cook Strait meant all Interislander ferries between Wellington and Picton had been cancelled until further notice, spokeswoman Sophie Lee said.

Wellington's commuter train network was operating fine this morning, she said.

Meanwhile Bluebridge's ferry Santa Regina is the one Cook Strait ferry to remain in freight only service during the big overnight southerly.  

It battled eight-metre high sea swells in the strait during its freight-only crossin,g which left Wellington about 10 o'clock last night. 

At 8.30 this morning satellite navigation equipment showed the Santa Regina entering Cook Strait from Tory Channel on a return freight only Picton to Wellington crossing.  

The cruise ships Marina and Pacific Pearl are both berthed and being buffeted at Aotea Quay this morning. 

The Pacific Pearl had trouble staying alongside the wharf last night and called for tug assistance about 3am.

The Centreport tugs Tiaki and Toia remain on station at Aotea Quay this morning pinning the luxury liner to the wharf. 

East by West harbour ferries have cancelled all Eastbourne - Wellington sailings this morning in Wellington Harbour.

InterIslander's Stena Alegra and Arahura remained tied up in Wellington Harbour this morning.

On the other side of Cook Strait Bluebridge's Straitsman and Kaitaki remain tied up. 

Morning sailings of the East by West ferry were cancelled.

- The Dominion Post

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