Wellington in dark as storm slams capital

Four-year-old Jackson from Lake Tekapo measured 21 inches (53 cm) of snow at 9am and says it's well over 26 inches (66 cm) at 3pm and still snowing.
Four-year-old Jackson from Lake Tekapo measured 21 inches (53 cm) of snow at 9am and says it's well over 26 inches (66 cm) at 3pm and still snowing.
Snow on below the bushline on Mount Ruapehu.
Snow on below the bushline on Mount Ruapehu.
Bryce Helms at Hanmer Springs Hot Pools.
Bryce Helms at Hanmer Springs Hot Pools.
Snow piles up at Cardrona, near Wanaka.
Snow piles up at Cardrona, near Wanaka.
Saint Clair Beach in Dunedin.
Saint Clair Beach in Dunedin.
Snow near Dunedin.
Snow near Dunedin.
Snow piles up at Cardrona, near Wanaka.
Snow piles up at Cardrona, near Wanaka.
Snow coats the ground and trees in Lawrence.
Snow coats the ground and trees in Lawrence.
Terrible driving driving conditions between  Hororata and Methven.
Terrible driving driving conditions between Hororata and Methven.
Huge amounts of snow in Lawrence.
Huge amounts of snow in Lawrence.
Snow at Lake Tekapo.
Snow at Lake Tekapo.
Winter hits Aoraki Mt Cook Village.
Winter hits Aoraki Mt Cook Village.
A farmer moves stock near Hororata.
A farmer moves stock near Hororata.
Snow begins to fall on a farm near Hororata.
Snow begins to fall on a farm near Hororata.
Ploughing snow at Lake Tekapo.
Ploughing snow at Lake Tekapo.
Winter hits Aoraki Mt Cook Village.
Winter hits Aoraki Mt Cook Village.
Winter hits Aoraki Mt Cook Village.
Winter hits Aoraki Mt Cook Village.
Snow in Waikana, near Gore.
Snow in Waikana, near Gore.
Ethan Shirley, three, clears some snow in Hawea Flat.
Ethan Shirley, three, clears some snow in Hawea Flat.
Snow in Parnassus.
Snow in Parnassus.
Snow in Parnassus.
Snow in Parnassus.
Homebush's Woolshed in Darfield, covered in snow and frost.
Homebush's Woolshed in Darfield, covered in snow and frost.
Snow cover in Methven.
Snow cover in Methven.
Chloe and Zara have fun in the Springfield snow.
Chloe and Zara have fun in the Springfield snow.
Snow in Fairlie, South Canterbury, where the power has recently gone out.
Snow in Fairlie, South Canterbury, where the power has recently gone out.
Snow flurries arrive in Te Anau on Wednesday afternoon.
Snow flurries arrive in Te Anau on Wednesday afternoon.
Long queues formed at Wakatipu New World in Queenstown as people flocked to buy supplies ahead of the cold snap.
Long queues formed at Wakatipu New World in Queenstown as people flocked to buy supplies ahead of the cold snap.

Power is out to more than 30,000 homes across Wellington, all flights in and out of the city are cancelled and a ferry has broken loose from its moorings as one of the worst storms in decades batters the region.

All ferry and train services in the capital have also been cancelled tonight.


A man picks his way through debris washed up along Port Rd in Seaview.
A man picks his way through debris washed up along Port Rd in Seaview.
Contractors start to remove a large tree from an Owhiro Rd home.
Contractors start to remove a large tree from an Owhiro Rd home.
Residents putting a tarpaulin over a storm-damaged home at Queens Drive, Lyall Bay.
Residents putting a tarpaulin over a storm-damaged home at Queens Drive, Lyall Bay.
Seawater hits Eastbourne's Lowry Bay as high tide approaches.
Seawater hits Eastbourne's Lowry Bay as high tide approaches.
A boat from Porirua Harbour strikes boat sheds.
A boat from Porirua Harbour strikes boat sheds.
Roofs and trees litter the streets of Kelson, Lower Hutt.
Roofs and trees litter the streets of Kelson, Lower Hutt.
Two massive trees block road access down from Korokoro.
Two massive trees block road access down from Korokoro.
The Interislander ferry at anchor in Wellington harbour after its moorings broke in the night.
The Interislander ferry at anchor in Wellington harbour after its moorings broke in the night.
A seaside Days Bay bach gets pummeled by the sea.
A seaside Days Bay bach gets pummeled by the sea.
Reece Kohatu looks at the damage done by the waves at his Queens Drive Lyall Bay property.
Reece Kohatu looks at the damage done by the waves at his Queens Drive Lyall Bay property.
A fell tree on Maungaraki Road.
A fell tree on Maungaraki Road.
Sea water made it into Reece Kohatu's Lyall Bay property.
Sea water made it into Reece Kohatu's Lyall Bay property.
Trees ripped out of the ground in Petone.
Trees ripped out of the ground in Petone.
A yacht that couldn't stand the wind.
A yacht that couldn't stand the wind.
Lowry Bay, overtaken with waves.
Lowry Bay, overtaken with waves.
Storm debris in Petone.
Storm debris in Petone.
Storm damage in Petone.
Storm damage in Petone.
Storm damage in Korokoro.
Storm damage in Korokoro.
Debris on Petone Beach near the Settlers Museum. Waves went over the wall between the beach and the street.
Debris on Petone Beach near the Settlers Museum. Waves went over the wall between the beach and the street.
Storm damage in Southgate.
Storm damage in Southgate.
A tug boats attempts to tow the Interislander.
A tug boats attempts to tow the Interislander.
Damage at Jim and Philippa Reid's Seatoun house.
Damage at Jim and Philippa Reid's Seatoun house.
Debris on Owhiro Bay.
Debris on Owhiro Bay.
Debris on Days Bay.
Debris on Days Bay.
A separated door on Breaker Bay.
A separated door on Breaker Bay.
Damage to a bus in Southgate.
Damage to a bus in Southgate.
Severe damage in Lower Hutt.
Severe damage in Lower Hutt.
A fish that made it all the way across the road on Owhiro Bay.
A fish that made it all the way across the road on Owhiro Bay.
The cleanup begins on Breaker Bay.
The cleanup begins on Breaker Bay.
A huge Eucalyptus tree in Khandallah Park.
A huge Eucalyptus tree in Khandallah Park.
Storm damage in Belmont.
Storm damage in Belmont.
Callum Norrie of Breaker Bay inspects the debris.
Callum Norrie of Breaker Bay inspects the debris.
Nicholas Down, who lost his roof in Stokes Valley.
Nicholas Down, who lost his roof in Stokes Valley.
A greenhouse in Brooklyn that didn't survive the night.
A greenhouse in Brooklyn that didn't survive the night.
Storm debris on Owhiro Bay.
Storm debris on Owhiro Bay.
An unlucky car on Mount Victoria.
An unlucky car on Mount Victoria.
David Morgan sent in this photo of damaged train tracks on the Hutt Valley line.
David Morgan sent in this photo of damaged train tracks on the Hutt Valley line.
Storm debris on Owhiro Bay.
Storm debris on Owhiro Bay.
Storm damage on Myrtle Crescent.
Storm damage on Myrtle Crescent.
A fallen tree in Aro Park.
A fallen tree in Aro Park.
Storm damage at the Wellington Indoor Sports Centre in Newtown.
Storm damage at the Wellington Indoor Sports Centre in Newtown.
Storm damage in Island Bay.
Storm damage in Island Bay.
Damage to train tracks near Horokiwi.
Damage to train tracks near Horokiwi.
The damaged carpark at Ekim Burgers in Lyall Bay.
The damaged carpark at Ekim Burgers in Lyall Bay.
Inspectors check train tracks near Horokiwi.
Inspectors check train tracks near Horokiwi.
Storm damage by the coast at Island Bay.
Storm damage by the coast at Island Bay.
A fallen tree on Ellice Street, which thankfully fell between two cars.
A fallen tree on Ellice Street, which thankfully fell between two cars.
A crushed Breaker Bay boatshed.
A crushed Breaker Bay boatshed.
A damaged sign in central Wellington.
A damaged sign in central Wellington.
Council workers deal with a fallen tree on Rangiora Ave.
Council workers deal with a fallen tree on Rangiora Ave.
Damage to the Warehouse in Lyall Bay.
Damage to the Warehouse in Lyall Bay.
Trees down in Whitby.
Trees down in Whitby.
Glen Scanlon sent in this photo of his backyard in Hataitai.
Glen Scanlon sent in this photo of his backyard in Hataitai.
Storm damage to the Esplanade on Wellington's south coast.
Storm damage to the Esplanade on Wellington's south coast.
Damage to Wellington south coast's Esplanade.
Damage to Wellington south coast's Esplanade.
A toppled tree disturbs a grave at Karori Cemetery.
A toppled tree disturbs a grave at Karori Cemetery.
A shredded sail of a yacht at Mana Marina.
A shredded sail of a yacht at Mana Marina.
A Z Mana service station employee with his store's blown-in window this morning.
A Z Mana service station employee with his store's blown-in window this morning.
A parking booth toppled over at Wellington Stadium.
A parking booth toppled over at Wellington Stadium.
Both of Hannah Moore's family's trampolines took a tumble during the storm.
Both of Hannah Moore's family's trampolines took a tumble during the storm.
Debris from a ripped-off roof litters the grounds of the Raumati South Memorial Hall.
Debris from a ripped-off roof litters the grounds of the Raumati South Memorial Hall.
Waves crash at the coast at Plimmerton.
Waves crash at the coast at Plimmerton.
South coast resident Karen Brodie with a fish she found washed up on the Esplanade.
South coast resident Karen Brodie with a fish she found washed up on the Esplanade.
The storm-ravaged Esplanade on Wellington's south coast.
The storm-ravaged Esplanade on Wellington's south coast.
A ute lies smashed by a falling tree.
A ute lies smashed by a falling tree.
A tree lies fallen across Fox St at the intersection with Awarua Rd, Ngaio.
A tree lies fallen across Fox St at the intersection with Awarua Rd, Ngaio.
Damage to Countdown in Johnsonville.
Damage to Countdown in Johnsonville.
Firefighters tend to a tree down in Pharazyn St, Lower Hutt.
Firefighters tend to a tree down in Pharazyn St, Lower Hutt.
A tree which blew over at the back of a student accommodation building on Boulcott St, narrowly missing a car.
A tree which blew over at the back of a student accommodation building on Boulcott St, narrowly missing a car.
A tree which blew over at the back of a student accommodation building on Boulcott St, narrowly missing a car.
A tree which blew over at the back of a student accommodation building on Boulcott St, narrowly missing a car.
Damage to a parking ticket machine shelter on Victoria St.
Damage to a parking ticket machine shelter on Victoria St.
Trees broken by the storm on Victoria St in central Wellington.
Trees broken by the storm on Victoria St in central Wellington.
An overturned parking ticket machine shelter on Victoria St in central Wellington.
An overturned parking ticket machine shelter on Victoria St in central Wellington.
Torrential rain affects Wellington commuters as they head home.
Torrential rain affects Wellington commuters as they head home.

Lashed by the weather? Email your newstips, photos and video to newstips@stuff.co.nz.


Civil Defence emergency operation centres in Wellington, Porirua and Lower Hutt were opened late in the evening as the southerly storm got progressively worse.

SNOW, RAIN: A MetService rain radar image from 1.50pm.
SNOW, RAIN: A MetService rain radar image from 1.50pm.

Civil Defence controller Bruce Pepperell said the offices were coordinating a very large number of "relatively minor" events around the region.

"The emergency services and council contractors are flat out dealing with fallen trees, flying roofing iron and other wind-related problems,'' he said.

"We have opened to keep an overview of where the problems are and to direct resources where necessary. At the moment we are not considering any formal civil defence activation."

Many of the thousands of homes without power would likely be that way until morning, Pepperell said.

Ohariu Valley, north of Wellington, had also been cut off from the city by fallen trees, which were completely blocking Ohariu Valley Rd.

Swells of up to 10 metres had also been reported in Cook Strait, and with high tide expected at about 1am, there were concerns about possible damage to property and roads along Wellington's south coast.

The Kaitaki ferry in Wellington harbour broke its moorings, and staff were unable to bring it back into berth. An Interislander spokeswoman said the ship had been anchored in the harbour temporarily.

The ferry broke free from its moorings in a 90 knot southerly gust, or 160 kilometre an hour winds, the spokeswoman said.

Emergency services were battling horizontal rain with the highest gust of 200kmh recorded at Mount Kaukau, with about 140kmh in the city, a Metservice severe weather forecaster said.

Police said there had been a large increase in calls, many of which just related to damage and were being referred to Wellington City Council.

Inspector Ian Harris, of police central communications, said trees had come down in a number of places and a few roofs had been torn of structures.

"It's mostly trees or branches that are coming down, there is some flooding across roads and power is going out sporadically."

A spokesman for the NZ Transport Agency said fallen trees and debris were also partially blocking the northbound lanes of State Highway 2 between Ngauranga and Petone.

Harris said the slip was completely blocking one of the three southbound lanes and partially blocking another, just south of the speed camera.

Contractors were sent to clear the slip just after 7pm.

Harris said high winds were also sending waves crashing up onto the southbound motorway.

"We're advising people to just stay at home if they can and only travel if it's absolutely necessary."

Motorists were also being asked to take Hutt Rd rather than the motorway.

Wellington Electricity was advising people to stay away from fallen powerlines and check on neighbours, especially the elderly, if you thought they may be effected.

Wellington Electricity spokesman Drew Douglas said the weather had caused extensive damage, with affected areas including Titahi Bay, Trentham, Silverstream, Wingate, Wainuiomata, Miramar and Kingsley Heights.

He said work was underway to restore the power supply in Wellington, but the amount of work and weather conditions meant there would be some delays.

Areas affected include Trentham, Titahi Bay, Wingate, Wainuiomata, Miramar, Kingsley Heights, Makara, Oharu Valley, Belmont, Seaview, Petone, Newlands, Tawa, Plimmerton, Mana, Gracefield, Waterloo, Korokoro, Days Bay, Naenae and Porirua. There may also be other areas affected by local low voltage faults.

People were being asked to stay clear of any fallen powerlines and listen to a portable radio for updates.

Power has also been lost at the TSB Arena, which is hosting the Gold business awards.

They were operating off a generator.

Region-wide power outages and the threat of trees falling on rail lines had also forced all Tranz Metro train services across the region to be cancelled for the night.

Transpower chief executive Patrick Strange said a number of lines were out of service on both sides of the Cook Strait.

"Our big concern is the AC links - in the south, it would seem those ones are out due to heavy snow and wind, and obviously in Wellington they're out due to extreme wind."

Those links feed power through the Cook Strait Cable, primarily supplying the North Island with electricity.

Strange said overhead lines stretching from Benmore in Canterbury to Haywards Substation in Lower Hutt were most likely out because they were clashing together in high winds.

Those line outages however, had no effect on household power.

All back up generators for the North Island were functioning and Strange said linesmen were working to fix what they could.

"There are places in Wellington where we just can't send them right now though. It's just too dangerous."

A KiwiRail spokeswoman said there were serious safety concerns. "It's quite severe weather out there."

About 7pm, a train travelling north on the Johnsonville line struck a tree that had fallen on the tracks near Ngaio Station. It was able to double back to Crofton Downs Station to drop off passengers before returning to Wellington.

Air New Zealand said just after 7pm it had suspended all flights into and out of the capital for the rest of the night because of the high winds. It asked affected passenger to call its contact centre for further advice.

Cook Strait ferries were also cancelled, but an Interislander spokeswoman said it was hoped the 2.30pm sailing from Wellington tomorrow would go ahead, but this would depend on the weather.

Wellington resident Glen Scanlon said just after 7pm his family heard an almighty crash.

"My wife said: 'I think your bike just fell down outside'. I opened the back door and half the hillside was there.

"A tree had come down, taking out the fence, table and washing line. Luckily the tree was just resting against the house."

Wellington resident Julie Clarke tweeted a single gust blew away a trampoline, which was pegged down in her back yard, away.

MetService severe weather forecaster Heath Gullery said the potentially damaging winds were just getting started.

"Rain and severe gales are setting in, the highest recorded so far has hit 140kmh in both Kelburn and Wellington Airport."

He said severe gale warnings were unlikely to be lifted before tomorrow evening.

"This will continue throughout tonight and it won't be until tomorrow afternoon that we see it ease, although winds will still be strong."

'SIGNIFICANT EVENT'

The storm has been described as the worst to hit in 37 years, by a National Institute for Weather and Atmospheric Research (Niwa) scientist.

Principal scientist Dr Mike Revell said the storm would be "up there with the one or two worst snow events" he was aware of since becoming a meteorologist in 1976.

"This is a significant event which is expected to persist through to Friday night, with snow accumulations likely to exceed 50cm above 300 metres and more than 100cm above 500 metres," MetService said.

Earlier Thursday, schools in both the North and South Islands were forced shut, roads were closed and flights cancelled as snow and severe gales battered both inland and coastal areas.

According to MetService, the low pressure system off the coast of Kaikoura was expected to bring heavy winds overnight.

Severe Weather Warnings remained in place, and weren't expected to be changed until tomorrow evening.

Damaging gusts of 140 kmh were possible in exposed places throughout tomorrow, but could reach 150kmh through parts of Westland. Gusts of 200kmh had already been recorded in the Wellington suburb of Khandallah.

In the south, it was the rural areas of New Zealand that were the worst hit.

For inland parts of north Canterbury, it was predicted about 50cm to 100cm of snow would fall during the storm. Many places saw that fall today, although it was expected to continue into tomorrow.

Naseby in Central Otago was reportedly cut off, as was Middlemarch, which also had power outages.

Fairlie in Canterbury was also cut off and reportedly without power. Up to 60cm of snow was reported in Tekapo.

Among the major road closures was SH 85 from Omakau To Palmerston, SH 8 from Lindis Pass and SH 6 from Queenstown To Kingston.

Long-time Naseby resident Stuart Hore said the snowfall there was one of the heaviest he'd seen in his 75 years.

Snow was also reported in Methven, Darfield, Ashburton, Oxford, Darfield, Loburn and Waiau, and in Kingston and Lake Hawea in Central Otago.

In the central North Island, National Park Primary School Principal Terry Hemmingsen said 5 - 8cm of snow had already fallen on the grounds of the country's "top school" - the classrooms, at 900m above sea level, are the highest in the country.

Some of the 36 children who went to the school, up to year eight, rode home in the specially-designed four wheel drive school bus.

Hemmingsen said the forecast was for the snow to continue overnight and into Friday so it was likely the school's doors would remain closed tomorrow.

For ski resorts across the country, the heavy dumping had been a welcome sight. Cardrona Ski Resort in Wanaka was due to open tomorrow, but have pushed their opening back to Saturday so some of the snow could be cleared.

The Remarkables were also looking to open with 10com to 20cms of dry powder on top of a 75cm base. Tomorrow marks the first day of the Queenstown Winter Festival.

Heavy snow had been falling throughout the day on both the Whakapapa and Turoa ski fields, and was expected to get heavier tomorrow.

In many other parts of the North Island, it was the biting cold winds along with sleet and rain that were the most difficult to contend with.

The system was not expected to begin weakening until late tomorrow evening.

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