Country braces for gale force winds

23:47, Oct 23 2012

Gale force winds are expected to hammer parts of the country today, with gusts set to reach 130km per hour in exposed places of Otago and Canterbury.

MetService issued a severe weather warning this morning, saying northwest winds are forecast to reach gale force over many eastern areas of the South Island and the south of the North Island.

Strong winds in Otago and Canterbury are expected to ease by 8am tomorrow, while gusts of up to 120kmh are possible in Wairarapa and central Hawke's Bay from midnight to 3pm tomorrow.

For Wellington and Marlborough, there is a severe weather watch in place as gusts of around 100kmh are forecast for tonight and tomorrow morning.

MetService warned that winds of 120kmh had the potential to damage power lines and loose structures, and make driving difficult.

Forecaster John Crouch said strong winds were common in spring, with gusts hitting parts of the country over the past few weeks.

"We get a lot of fronts coming out of the southern ocean with the strong northwesterly flows ahead of them, and this is another one of those," he said.

The front is also expected to bring up to 120mm of rain to Fiordland today and tomorrow morning. Heavy rain is also forecast for southern Westland and the headwaters of the Otago rivers and lakes.

The heavy rain could cause rivers to rise rapidly and create surface flooding.

Crouch said the severe weather would quickly ease tomorrow night.