Weather bomb causes havoc in North Island

MICHELLE COOKE, BLANTON SMITH, AMY MAAS AND BLAIR ENSOR
Last updated 16:22 03/03/2012
Fairfax NZ

South Taranaki was hit hard by the weather bomb

Damage in Patea from a weather bomb.
ANDY JACKSON Zoom
Damage in Patea from a weather bomb.

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A weather bomb wreaked havoc in the North Island this morning, sparking evacuations, ripping trees from their roots and roofs off houses.


Have you been affected by the weather bomb? Send your comments and photos to newstips@stuff.co.nz


Taranaki has taken the full brunt of the storm, with one farmer estimating the damage on his property alone to be in the millions while to 30,000 customers were without power and the repair time for some areas is estimated at up to five days.

Patea residents said the weather bomb felt like a twister, with one adding that it was "50 times worse" than Cyclone Bola, which caused wide-spread destruction when it ripped through the East Coast in 1988.

The extent of damage in Hawera, in Taranaki, is so severe that police said it looked like a bomb site.

The weather bomb tore through Taranaki early this morning and is now making its way to Hawkes Bay and Gisborne, MetService forecaster Allister Gorman said.

"Severe weather warnings are in place from Auckland down to Marlborough but the winds in most places will begin to ease in the next few hours," he said.

"But some of the winds will remain at warning levels until at least this evening, especially around Wellington."

MetService meteorologist Daniel Corbett did, however, warn that a new low was forming off the east coast of the lower North Island.

Mr Corbett said the ''weather bomb'' had gone according to forecasts.

''There's been damaging wind gusts and the depth of the low.''

Despite the wild weather, emergency services have only heard of one injury.

A female firefighter from the Wainuiomata Volunteer Fire Brigade injured her back after a branch fell and hit her on the shoulder.

Wainuiomata resident Paul Collins said a fireman was cutting branches off a tree that had ``split'' and was leaning on his house when the incident happened about 10am.

Meanwhile, five teenagers who spent a miserable night in the bush near Tauranga after becoming lost yesterday evening were found this morning.

Power is out to about 30,000 properties in South Taranaki and Whanganui and more power outages are expected as the storm moves across the country, a Powerco spokesperson said.

It could take up to five days before all power has been restored.

In Patea, about 30 roofs had been damaged and powerlines littered the roads, Patea community board member David Honeyfield said.

"This is 50 times worse than Cyclone Bola when it hit Patea," Mr Honeyfield said.

Mr Honeyfield owns 10,000 pine trees and said 90 per cent of one plot (1000 trees) had come down in the storm.

Edith Cheetham, who was evacuated from her Patea home, said the weather bomb felt like a twister when it ripped off a large portion of her roof.

Mrs Cheetham said she was watching the trees sway last night and thought it was neat.

"Then the power went off and boom then the roof went down," she said.

Taranaki Daily News reporter Laird Harper, who spent the morning in Patea, said it looked like an earthquake had hit the town.

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Resident Janice Murray said her home's conservatory was smashed to bits by the weather bomb.

Mrs Murray said she thought the storm would pass without any damage, then bang, crash, smash, she said.

"I heard the glass flying around."

"I don't know what to say."

One Taranaki resident said trampolines had been picked up and thrown "like giant Frisbees".

Some people in Patea were forced to leave their homes, and have been offered shelter at the Patea fire station.

There are also reports of extensive damage in Waverley.

WIDESPREAD DAMAGE

The rest of the North Island hasn't escaped the wrath of the storm, with weather-related incidents reported from Auckland to Wellington.

There are reports of power outages in Whanganui, Taranaki, Raumati South, Tawa and Martinborough.
 
The Martinborough Fair has been cancelled for the first time in 35 years.

Power was reported as out in parts of Whanganui since 6am with a Stuff reader saying trees, roofs and fences had been blown over and a road was blocked after giant oaks crashed across it at both ends.

"Concrete roofing tiles have been blown onto roads. Trampolines have been turned into giant frisbees,'' Julie Jackson said.

Around 500 homes on Waiheke Island have been without power since 1.10pm today.

Vector Energy spokeswoman Sandy Hodge said crews were on the island trying to find the fault. It's unclear how long the residents will remain without power.

Meanwhile, high winds brought powerlines down, which caught on fire in Oropi Rd, Greerton, on the outskirts of Tauranga.

Traffic in the area would be delayed while the Fire Service cleared the scene.

A tree fell onto a road in Wainuiomata, Wellington, bringing powerlines down and causing a car to crash into it, but the driver escaped unscathed, police said.

A tree has also fallen in Ngaio Gorge Road and a yacht has broken its mooring at the Clyde Quay Marina in Wellington.

In Auckland, a horse float is tipping in the wind at the Rosehill BP near Drury, with emergency workers struggling to free the horse on board.

Multiple trees have also been blown over as a result of the wind, causing disruption to traffic across the Bay of Plenty.

An Ironman race in Taupo was postponed until tomorrow, while Ellerslie Race's Derby day is going ahead as planned.

Some Interislander ferries have been cancelled and travellers were urged to check with airports or ferries before setting off.

- Stuff

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