Winds hammer upper North Island

ROB KIDD, ANDREW BEACH AND STAFF REPORTERS
Last updated 23:59 09/07/2014
Stuff.co.nz

High winds and heavy rain have drenched Northland as the storm moves further South into Auckland.

A Vector lines worker repairs powerlines in Muriwai after gales struck Auckland and Northland.
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A Vector lines worker repairs powerlines in Muriwai after gales struck Auckland and Northland.

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Parts of the Far North are facing a second night without power as wild winds continue to cause headaches.

Northland Civil Defence Emergency Management said 10,000 Northlanders have been warned they could spend another night without electricity.

It added that the worst of the wild weather was believed to have passed.

And in Auckland more than 2900 homes were still without power at 7pm, and the number continued to fall as crews worked.

Vector energy said they restored several customers early this evening, including half of Waiheke Island. 

The weather has also caused havoc on the roads, knocked out power and caused ferry and flight cancellations.

A woman gave birth in her car, a "hero farmer" with a tractor saved a pair of Northland motorists trapped by floodwaters and, far north of the North Island, the Navy performed a dramatic rescue of three yachties in high seas.

Northpower has described the storm as the worst in the past seven years.

Backup repair crews have been called in from Tauranga, Matamata, Hamilton and Warkworth to assess storm damage and carry out repairs.

More than 100 Northpower staff have worked overnight and through the day.

Outages were being gradually fixed but many customers would have to wait until tomorrow because it was too dangerous to have crews working at night in dark, stormy conditions.

Earlier, an elderly couple were forced into taking refuge in their garage after gale strength wind ripped their roof off their Te Kopuru house.

Margaret and Jim Te Tuhi have lived in the house since 1977 when Jim retired from the New Zealand Army. The home commands views over the Northern Wairoa River and surrounding farmlands at the end of a quiet little road, but yesterday it bore the full force of the wind hammering the region.

Jim had only just gone inside the house after retrieving a partially dislodged garden screen when the front half of his roof lifted off and crashed into his driveway. He'd been standing there only minutes before.

The roof was then slammed into a two-metre high fence before continuing on to come to rest against trees beside the neighbour's house

"Fortunately no one was injured," Jim Te Tuhi said.

Within minutes of making a 111 call the Te Kopuru volunteer fire brigade arrived to assist.

"'The whole village was without power so there was nothing much we could do in the darkness other than put our fire out.''

The brigade left to arrive back soon after with some tarpaulins and helped us to gather up furniture and push it into the least affected back rooms and cover it over.

Daylight revealed a sorry scene - with a large portion of its roof gone the rain had soaked almost the entire house, drenching carpets and flooding the kitchen.

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Family and friends arrived this morning to offer support and to help remove the couple's contents into the garage.

PEOPLE STUCK

In Titoki meanwhile, four trucks were sent to rescue the two stuck people on Mangakahia Rd, about 30 kilometres west of Whangarei, but the vehicles were unable to reach the people in the car due to flooding.

Luckily, they were able to get out without assistance and had gone to a nearby property, Fire Service shift manager Colin Underdown said.

Winds were gusting to 69kmh in Auckland and 80kmh in Whangarei this morning.

MOTORISTS CAUTIONED

Drivers were being asked to maintain caution as strong winds and rain continued to make conditions dangerous in both Auckland and Northland. A number of major Northland roads were closed.

For the second day, the speed limit on the Auckland Harbour Bridge had been lowered from 80 to 70kmh.

> What you need to know

Severe easterly gales with gusts of 130kmh in exposed places were expected to continue in Northland, Auckland and the Coromandel Peninsula today as a deep low remained slow moving close to Northland, MetService said in its latest severe weather warning.

Severe eastern gales were also possible over eastern Waikato near the Kaimai Range today.

The winds should start to ease about Northland this evening, and in Auckland, Coromandel Peninsula and Great Barrier Island tonight, with the wind flow turning more northeast.

Periods of heavy rain were likely over northern parts of Auckland and Coromandel Peninsula today. Widespread heavy rain had eased in Northland, although localised heavy falls could be expected in the region during the day.

Trees were toppled, including one which fell onto a woman sitting inside her Kaitaia house, roofs took flight, and power was cut to thousands of customers.

A truck was blown over on State Highway 1, North of Wellsford, and at 9pm a wave buoy at Whangarei harbour recorded a rogue 21.96m wave. The buoy was showing a maximum wave height of 16.11m this morning.

Three boats sank at Opua and a pontoon next to the Opua wharf was damaged.

Gusts of up to 168km were recorded at Cape Reinga yesterday, while the mean wind speed at Auckland's Sky Tower was 106kmh at 9am today, MetService meteorologist Liz Walsh said.

- Stuff

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