Plane passengers scream in terror as winds hit capital
Passengers on a Jetstar flight screamed as their plane made two failed landing attempts in the damaging gales thrashing the capital.
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In Wellington, gales were expected to reach 140kmh, while snow was expected in the south.
A number of flights in and out of the capital have been cancelled, diverted or delayed, forcing passengers to rebook.
Aucklander Mijnia Elliott described her terrifying experience this morning when the Jetstar plane she was in made two failed attempts to land before being diverted back to Auckland.
"The first time was terrible. The plane was just swept up by the wind and people were screaming, babies were crying," she said.
"It was the scariest landing I've ever experienced, or should I say non-landing."
The airport advised passengers to check with airlines ahead of their departure.
Meanwhile, the wind has also blown windows out of buildings, sent trampolines flying, uprooted trees and brought telephone lines down.
Rimutaka Hill Road has been closed and police were warning drivers to take extra care on Wainuiomata Hill due to excessive winds.
The wind forced a window at the Amora Hotel to crash onto Wakefield St, while a large sign on Dixon St was uplifted and came smashing down onto a car, breaking its windscreen.
A trampoline was lifted by the wind and thrown into powerlines in Northland, Wellington, while sheets of corrugated iron have been ripped off Shed 6 on Wellington's waterfront.
The Fire Service has responded to a number of calls relating to uprooted trees and parts of roofs lifting off in Island Bay, Kilbirnie and Wainuiomata, fire central communications shift manager David Meikle said.
The lights at the intersection of John St, Riddiford St and Adelaide Rd in Newtown were not working, but council staff were manually managing the traffic.
A tree was blocking Karori Rd, which was causing some delays in the area, but traffic in general had been relatively calm, a Wellington City Council spokesman said.
Peter Lambrechsten and his wife were surprised to wake to tree crashing onto the tree hut of their three daughters, causing some minor damage.
The Fire Service responded because it was a health hazard and the tree has been chopped into pieces on their lawn in Strathmore Park.
Waves were being forced across both lanes on Cobham Dr, near the airport, Lambrechsten said.
"It's definitely crazy, crazy weather out there."
DETOUR FOR RUGBY FANS
Wairarapa motorists travelling to tonight's All Blacks-Argentina match in Wellington are being advised to use the Manawatu Gorge or catch the train while the Rimutaka Hill road remains closed due to high winds.
New Zealand Transport Agency Wellington operations manager Mark Owen said the road was expected to remain closed until early this evening at the earliest, as Metservice had forecast winds were unlikely to ease until about 7pm.
"We've had reports of massive gusts buffetting the hill at speeds of up to 170 kmh, and in these conditions we have agreed with emergency services to close the road until the winds ease. We don't make these decisions lightly and we appreciate this will be a headache to motorists, but protecting the safety of motorists must come first."
"This closure may affect travel to the rugby test in Wellington this evening. If people are travelling to the game from Wairarapa, they will need to take the long way around via the SH3 Manawatu Gorge, or travel into the city by train."
Those travelling to Wellington via the Manawatu Gorge would need to allow an extra three hours for their travel.
An update will be issued early this evening.
POWER BEING RESTORED
Power has been restored to about 5300 of 6000 homes after a Wellington Electricity substation outage in Trentham about midday.
However, the lines company has been plagued by another weather-related outage in Wanuiomata that knocked out power when lines clashed about 2.45pm.
Wellington Electricity spokesman Hugo Armstrong said the remaining homes in Upper Hutt would be back online by 4.30pm.
He said the major outages were the company's priority and urged people affected by numerous single outages across the city caused by downed electricity and telecommunications lines to exercise patience in the meantime.
He also urged people to stay away from downed power lines and call emergency services.
WHAT TO EXPECT
Wellington isn't the only place expected to experience adverse weather today.
While strong gales lashed Wellington overnight, reaching 119kmh at Wellington Airport this morning, and 130kmh at Mt KauKau, they had surpassed 141kmh on the Rimutaka Rd, MetService severe weather forecaster Andy Downes said.
Strong winds would also affect areas in the South Island, including Marlborough, Canterbury and Banks Peninsular, where gales were expected to reach about 120kmh.
Taranaki, the central plateau, Whanganui, Manawatu and parts of the Hawke's Bay region were also expected to experience high winds from this afternoon.
"It's a strong and unsettled pattern through the weekend, and even continuing through to Monday," Downes said.
Meanwhile, while rain has eased in the far South and on the West Coast, temperatures were set to drop.
About 10 centimetres of snow was expected in Fiordland this evening, and could affect Milford Rd and the tunnel, Downes said.
Another 20cm was due to fall in the area tomorrow and there was also the possibility of snow in Arthurs Pass.
While the rain has eased down south, a sweeping front is moving it north to western parts of the country, such as Taranaki, Tararua Range and the central North Island.