Major storm mop-up gets under way

11:01, Jun 21 2013
Snow flurries arrive in Te Anau
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.
Snow cover in Methven.
Snow cover in Methven.
Snow cover in Methven.
Snow in Fairlie, South Canterbury, where the power has recently gone out.
Homebush's Woolshed, covered in snow and frost.
Homebush's Woolshed in Darfield, covered in snow and frost.
Homebush's Woolshed, covered in snow and frost.
Chloe and Zara have fun in the Springfield snow.
Homebush's Woolshed, covered in snow and frost.
Snow in Parnassus.
Homebush's Woolshed, covered in snow and frost.
Snow in Waikana, near Gore.
Homebush's Woolshed, covered in snow and frost.
Ethan Shirley, three, clears some snow in Hawea Flat.
Homebush's Woolshed, covered in snow and frost.
Snow in Parnassus.
Homebush's Woolshed, covered in snow and frost.
Winter hits Aoraki Mt Cook Village.
Homebush's Woolshed, covered in snow and frost.
Winter hits Aoraki Mt Cook Village.
Homebush's Woolshed, covered in snow and frost.
Winter hits Aoraki Mt Cook Village.
Homebush's Woolshed, covered in snow and frost.
Ploughing snow at Lake Tekapo.
Homebush's Woolshed, covered in snow and frost.
Terrible driving driving conditions between Hororata and Methven.
Homebush's Woolshed, covered in snow and frost.
A farmer moves stock near Hororata.
Homebush's Woolshed, covered in snow and frost.
Snow begins to fall on a farm near Hororata.
Homebush's Woolshed, covered in snow and frost.
Snow at Lake Tekapo.
Homebush's Woolshed, covered in snow and frost.
Huge amounts of snow in Lawrence.
Snow coats the ground and trees in Lawrence.
Snow coats the ground and trees in Lawrence.
Snow coats the ground and trees in Lawrence.
Snow piles up at Cardrona, near Wanaka.
Snow coats the ground and trees in Lawrence.
Snow piles up at Cardrona, near Wanaka.
Snow coats the ground and trees in Lawrence.
Snow on below the bushline on Mount Ruapehu.
Homebush's Woolshed, covered in snow and frost.
Bryce Helms at Hanmer Springs Hot Pools.
Snow coats the ground and trees in Lawrence.
Snow near Dunedin.
Snow coats the ground and trees in Lawrence.
Saint Clair Beach in Dunedin.
The Big Chill hits
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.

About 2000 homes in the Wellington region are still without power tonight and some in rural areas may be that way for the next few days.

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

Wellington Electricity spokesman Drew Douglas said power had been restored to most of the 30,000 homes that were cut off when a massive storm with winds gusting up to 200km/h damaged buildings and knocked over trees in Wellington last night.

But about 2000 homes were still in the dark late this evening, he said. Homes in the Wellington suburbs of Miramar, Newlands and Johnsonville were affected along with parts of Ohariu Valley and Makara just outside the city.

Some homes in Porirua and the surrounding areas of Titahi Bay, Plimmerton and Mana were also affected, as was Whitemans Valley, Kingsley Heights and Days Bay in the Hutt Valley, and Wainuiomata.

"The scale of the event may mean that some customers in our more remote rural areas will be without full power for a few days."

Power company crews were working rapidly, under appalling conditions, to restore service, he said.

Huntsbury Hill snow
WHITE BLANKET: Snow has settled on the Port Hills. Huntsbury Hill is as pretty as a picture.
Cashmere snow
BRRRR: The snow finally hits Christchurch. Cars in Hackthorne Rd, Cashmere, are covered.
Cashmere snow
WINTER DRIVE: A scooter rider braves the snow in Hackthorne Rd, Cashmere.
Cashmere snow
FUN TIMES: Ocean Beso plays in the snow in Hackthorne Rd, Cashmere.
Dyers Pass Rd snow
TRAVEL DISRUPTION: Heavy snow has closed Dyers Pass Rd between Cashmere and Governors Bay.
Hackthorne Rd snow
SAFETY FIRST: Cameron Strange, of Downers, closes Hackthorne Rd in Cashmere as snow settles on the ground.
North New Brighton snow
LIGHT DUSTING: Snow settling on cleared land in the residential red zone in North New Brighton.
City centre snow
LOTS OF FLAKES: Snow falls heavily in the city centre, and begins to settle on the Christ Church Cathedral.
Christchurch snow
CITY SNOW: Snowflakes fall around the Victoria St Clock Tower.
Danielle on Brighton pier
SEASIDE: Danielle braved the freezing winds and snow to take a walk on New Brighton pier.
New Brighton Beach snow
CHILLY DAY: Snow dusts New Brighton Beach.
Cashmere snow
SPECIAL DELIVERY: Caleb Butcher has to put chains on his 4WD to get back down the hill after delivering milk and bread to his grandma in Dyers Pass Rd.
Clearing snow on Dyers Pass Rd
NO TIME WASTED: A truck clears snow on Dyers Pass Rd.
Sara Allen
WELCOME HOME: Sara Allen arrives back from Auckland to visit her mum in Cashmere.
Dyers Pass Rd closed
CLOSED: The closure of Dyers Pass Rd forces motorists to divert through Lyttelton tunnel or Gebbies Pass.
St Asaph St hole
FLOODING: The road collapsed in St Asaph St after a water main burst.
Tai Tapu farmland under water
UNDER WATER: Large areas of Tai Tapu farmland are in flood.
Birdlings Flat stormy water
STORMY SEAS: Birdlings Flat is being pounded by high seas.
Christchurch East school closed for snow
CLOSED: Christchurch East school is one of 71 in Canterbury to close for the day.
Andy Bean with Noah and Arlo
SENT HOME: Andy Bean picks up children Noah, 8, (in green) and Arlo, 6, after Christchurch East school closed.
Walking dogs in the snow
AVON RIVER WALK: Dallington dog walkers Ashley and Margaret Heywood with their charges Dash, Holly and Rusty.
Phoebe Sage
WILLING HELPER: Phoebe Sage, 8, of St Martins helps clear the snow.
Eli Hansen
SNOW DELIGHTS: Eli Hansen, 5, makes the most of a day off school to play at Victoria Park, Cashmere.

Meanwhile, insurance claims have spiked after record breaking winds, rain and snow battered New Zealand over the last 24 hours.

Tower Insurance said it had received more than 150 claims from people in the Wellington region alone after an Antarctic low ripped through the city last night.

"Claims ranged from roofs being blown off homes, to trees on rooftops, damage to fences and flooded carpets," Tracey Palmer said.

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Auckland Weather
OMINOUS: A storm cloud passes over One Tree Hill as the stormy weather hits around Auckland City.
Auckland Weather
PRETTY COLOURS: A rainbow makes a brief appearance as the stormy weather hits around Auckland City.
Auckland Weather
INCOMING: A front passes over the Sky Tower and Mt Eden
Rodney Lighning Strike
Lightning struck this Norfolk pine at around 10pm in Stanmore Bay. The tree's top section broke off and landed on a nearby property.
Rodney Lighning Strike
Emergency services treated one woman with chest pain and checked 12 homes with damage from lightning and thunder.
Rodney Lighning Strike
One man's house windows were completely blown out and glass shattered on his deck.
auckland weather
Lightning illuminates the sky over West Auckland as a storm passes through.
auckland weather
An old house on Great North Road, near Avondale, Auckland.
Lightning ROD
TOP OFF: The Norfolk pine was the point of contact for lightning which peeled bark off the tree and pulled roots out of the ground.
Lightning ROD
DAMAGE: The Bruce’s home received the most damage with seven windows blown out, their garage door lifted from its foundation and electronics were fried.
Lightning ROD
CUT CLEAN: Top half of the Norfolk pine landed in the backyard of one property.
point england
Lightning hit a tree next to Jill Browning's Point England house.

State Insurance and AMI have also received several hundred claims and calls for assistance today.

Insurers expected the number of claims to rise over the next three or four days as customers who dealt with the initial impact of the storms were able to spend more time at the weekend assessing the extent of the damage.

Spokesman Craig Dowling said the majority of claims for the South Island were due to flooding, roof leaks, wind damage and some snow damage around spouting and roofing.

Central Wellington
An overturned parking ticket machine shelter on Victoria St in central Wellington.
Central Wellington
Torrential rain affects Wellington commuters as they head home.
Pharazyn St, Lower Hutt
Firefighters tend to a tree down in Pharazyn St, Lower Hutt.
Victoria St
Trees broken by the storm on Victoria St in central Wellington.
Victoria St 2
Damage to a parking ticket machine shelter on Victoria St.
Boulcott St
A tree which blew over at the back of a student accommodation building on Boulcott St, narrowly missing a car.
Boulcott St 2
A tree which blew over at the back of a student accommodation building on Boulcott St, narrowly missing a car.
Countdown
Damage to Countdown in Johnsonville.
 Middleton Rd, Churton Park
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.
Wellington storm
The storm-ravaged Esplanade on Wellington's south coast.
Wellington storm
South coast resident Karen Brodie with a fish she found washed up on the Esplanade.
Wellington esplanade
Damage to Wellington south coast's Esplanade.
Wellington esplanade
Storm damage to the Esplanade on Wellington's south coast.
Wellington storm
A Z Mana service station employee with his store's blown-in window this morning.
Wellington storm
Waves crash at the coast at Plimmerton.
Raumati South Memorial Hall
Debris from a ripped-off roof litters the grounds of the Raumati South Memorial Hall.
Raumati South Memorial Hall
A parking booth toppled over at Wellington Stadium.
Raumati South Memorial Hall
Both of Hannah Moore's family's trampolines took a tumble during the storm.
Raumati South Memorial Hall
A shredded sail of a yacht at Mana Marina.
Wellington storm
A toppled tree disturbs a grave at Karori Cemetery.
Wellington storm
A large fallen tree blocks a residential street in Whitby.
Wellington storm
Jeffrey Haina took these photos of a powerline "arcing" out his window in Wellington.
Wellington storm
A falling tree took out a power pole and lines, blocking Warwick St in the Wellington suburb of Wilton.
Wellington storm
Noel Henderson and his dog at the Esplanade on Wellington's south coast.
Wellington storm
Storm damage by the coast at Island Bay.
Wellington storm
Glen Scanlon sent in this photo of his backyard in Hataitai.
Wellington storm
Trees down in Whitby.
Wellington storm
Damage to the Warehouse in Lyall Bay.
Wellington storm
David Morgan sent in this photo of damaged train tracks on the Hutt Valley line.
Wellington storm
A damaged sign in central Wellington.
Wellington storm
A greenhouse in Brooklyn that didn't survive the night.
Wellington storm
A crushed Breaker Bay boatshed.
Wellington storm
A fallen tree on Ellice Street, which thankfully fell between two cars.
Wellington storm
Damage to train tracks near Horokiwi.
Wellington storm
Council workers deal with a fallen tree on Rangiora Ave.
Wellington storm
Inspectors check train tracks near Horokiwi.
Wellington storm
Nicholas Down, who lost his roof in Stokes Valley.
Wellington storm
Storm damage at the Wellington Indoor Sports Centre in Newtown.
Wellington storm
Storm damage in Island Bay.
Wellington storm
The damaged carpark at Ekim Burgers in Lyall Bay.
Wellington storm
A fallen tree in Aro Park.
Wellington storm
Storm damage on Myrtle Crescent.
Wellington storm
Storm debris on Owhiro Bay.
Wellington storm
Storm debris on Owhiro Bay.
Wellington storm
An unlucky car on Mount Victoria.
Wellington storm
The cleanup begins on Breaker Bay.
Wellington storm
A separated door on Breaker Bay.
Wellington storm
Storm damage in Belmont.
Wellington storm
Callum Norrie of Breaker Bay inspects the debris.
Wellington storm
Debris on Owhiro Bay.
Wellington storm
A fish that made it all the way across the road on Owhiro Bay.
Wellington storm
Damage to a bus in Southgate.
Wellington storm
Storm damage in Southgate.
Wellington storm
Severe damage in Lower Hutt.
Wellington storm
A huge Eucalyptus tree in Khandallah Park.
Wellington storm
Debris on Days Bay.
Wellington storm
Damage at Jim and Philippa Reid's Seatoun house.
Wellington storm
A tug boats attempts to tow the Interislander.
Wellington storm
Debris on Petone Beach near the Settlers Museum. Waves went over the wall between the beach and the street.
Wellington storm
A yacht that couldn't stand the wind.
Wellington storm
Sea water made it into Reece Kohatu's Lyall Bay property.
Wellington storm
Storm damage in Korokoro.
Wellington storm
Storm damage in Petone.
Wellington storm
Storm debris in Petone.
Wellington storm
Trees ripped out of the ground in Petone.
Wellington storm
Reece Kohatu looks at the damage done by the waves at his Queens Drive Lyall Bay property.
Wellington storm
A fell tree on Maungaraki Road.
Wellington storm
Lowry Bay, overtaken with waves.
Wellington storm
Seawater hits Eastbourne's Lowry Bay as high tide approaches.
Boats
A boat from Porirua Harbour strikes boat sheds.
Days Bay bach
A seaside Days Bay bach gets pummeled by the sea.
Korokoro
Two massive trees block road access down from Korokoro.
Interisland ferry
The Interislander ferry at anchor in Wellington harbour after its moorings broke in the night.
Kelson
Roofs and trees litter the streets of Kelson, Lower Hutt.
Wellington storm
Residents putting a tarpaulin over a storm-damaged home at Queens Drive, Lyall Bay.
Wellington storm
Contractors start to remove a large tree from an Owhiro Rd home.
Wellington storm
A man picks his way through debris washed up along Port Rd in Seaview.

"In Wellington, there was a lot of wind damage to roofing and resultant water damage. There’s also been damage to fencing and some reports of trees falling and damaging properties.

"We’ve also heard from some people with damage to outside items such as garden furniture and trampolines."

He said it was a significant weather event that had "hit the region and our customers hard".

Extra claims staff and assessors from the insurance companies would be available for the next few days.

LENGTHY CLEAN UP

Meanwhile, officials have warned it could take weeks to clean up the damage from the storm in Wellington.

Wellington region Civil Defence controller Bruce Pepperell said councils were working hard to get things back to normal after last night's devastating winds.

"I know that big efforts are under way to get power back on to more than 25,000 customers around the region and that work to restore the rail commuter network is also under way," Pepperell said.

Contractors were clearing fallen trees from roads across the region. Middleton Road in Johnsonville and the road access to Makara were considered priorities.

"Our problem is that some very big trees have come down overnight and they will take a lot of work to remove."

Pepperell said work had also started on a cleanup of the seaside roads on Wellington's south coast - particularly the Esplanade, between Island Bay and Owhiro Bay, which was severely damaged by huge waves.

Wellington City Council acting Civil Defence controller Neville Brown says he expected that stretch of road to be closed for at least another 24 hours. Full repairs could take some weeks, he said.

WAHINE STORM-BEATING WINDS

Wind speeds during Wellington's wicked overnight storm topped those recorded in the infamous 1968 Wahine storm.

The storm that rolled up the country yesterday - blanketing parts of the South Island in near-record levels of snow - smashed the lower North Island overnight and this morning. Emergency operation centres in Christchurch and Auckland were diverted to deal with Wellington's woes.

At its peak, winds gusting up to 200kmh damaged buildings and tore trees from the ground. Roofs were lifted from homes, including those in Kingston's Priscilla Cres, which was hit by a massive landslip two weeks ago.

Lashing rain caused surface flooding and, at times, up to 30,000 residents were without power. Conditions were so treacherous that some council and power companies stopped their workers from carrying out repairs. 

Wellington's 200kmh gusts on Mt Kaukau last night did not set a New Zealand record, based on Niwa statistics, though they just topped the gales recorded in the Wahine storm - exceeding those as reported in the New Zealand Almanac by a mere 2kmh. The '68 storm led to the sinking of the interisland ferry Wahine and the loss of 51 lives. 

The strongest winds to hit the North Island were recorded at Hawkins Hill in Wellington, with 248kmh on both November 6, 1959, and July 4, 1962. Mt John in Canterbury holds the New Zealand record, with 250kmh on April 18, 1970.

SPORT POSTPONEMENT

Tonight's NBL game between the Wellington Saints and Waitakere Rangers has been postponed because of the extreme weather conditions sweeping the country.

The game was scheduled to tip off at 7pm at TSB Bank Arena, but the Rangers were unable to fly from Auckland to Wellington today.

NBL league administrator Tara Hakiwai said the game would now be played on Tuesday at the same venue.

Tickets for tonight's game will be valid on Tuesday while Ticketek was also offering refunds.

POLITICAL RESPONSE

Civil Defence Minister Nikki Kaye has also warned that mopping up after the storm will take time.

"Emergency services, civil defence staff and council crews have worked extremely hard in difficult and sometimes dangerous conditions to restore services.

"I appreciate their hard work and commitment to the impacted communities. But the extent of the damage in many areas is such that it might take some time for normal services to be resumed."

The extreme weather that had caused disruption over much of the country may not be completely over yet, Kaye said.

"No states of emergency have been declared anywhere in the country at this stage but people should heed advice from local authorities and civil defence emergency management groups.

"Those without services will need patience and support from neighbours."

Kaye hoped to visit some of the worst affected storm areas over the next couple of days.

FORECAST

MetService forecaster Sarah Garlick said the storm was an extreme event but Wellington had seen a steady drop in winds since about 1am and they would continue to drop.

The city had 31.8mm of rain between 5pm yesterday and 7.30am today, and is expecting further showers today.

Temperatures dropped to 6.1 degrees Celsius early yesterday evening, but warmed slightly to 8C overnight. MetService is expecting temperatures to reach a maximum of 10C in Wellington today.

DRAMA CONTINUED

This morning, the weather continued to play havoc with transport links around the Wellington region, with train, ferry, air and bus travel all hit. Dozens of mainly primary schools closed for the day. Power remained out for more than 20,000 households.

The rail line between Petone and Wellington closed - so train services between the Hutt Valley and Wellington were cancelled until further notice. The line between Waikanae and Paekakariki also closed, with signal problems likely to cause delays between Porirua and Wellington. The Johnsonville line reopened about midday, with an hourly schedule.

All school bus routes were cancelled this morning, a NZ Bus spokeswoman said. And delays on commuter buses were expected all day.

All ferries and flights to and from Wellington were cancelled this morning, with flights resuming shortly before noon. 

All highways in the region were open - but conditions were still marginal and extreme care would be needed by motorists. Many smaller roads remain closed by slips, fallen trees and other debris.

WELLINGTON'S SOUTH COAST

Wellington's south coast was one of the areas hardest hit by the overnight storm. Resident Karen Brodie said The Esplanade had been "trashed".

"It's like a bomb's gone off. I've never seen anything like it," she said.

"The road has been completely ripped up.

"Debris, including logs, seaweed, sand and a ripped up bench seat were on the road," she said.

She even found a dead fish washed on the road this morning.

The wind last night was "hideous" Ms Brodie said. "It even moved my car over on an angle."

EMERGENCY SERVICES

The Fire Service received 932 emergency calls for help in the lower North Island in the 12 hours to 6am, with reports of "trees down, flooding,  fences blown away, roofs lifting," central communications shift manager Belinda Beets said.

South Wellington was the hardest hit area.

Acting Inspector Bruce Mackay at the police central communications said a major problem overnight had been swells hitting the waterfront, pushing stones from the railway on to the motorway. The motorway was closed for several hours overnight while the stones were swept up.

Mackay said that despite the severe weather few road crashes had been reported.

"I think most people did stay home. We're still saying, 'be very careful'."

STORM CASUALTIES

A Hutt Hospital spokeswoman said six people went to its emergency department last night. Five had been knocked over in the wind, and one had tripped over a coffee table in the dark. All had minor injuries so were treated and discharged.

Power was out to two administration buildings at Hutt Hospital this morning, but medical services were not affected.

A Wellington Hospital spokeswoman said it had not received any storm related casualties.

FERRY DRAMA

KiwiRail senior communications advisor Sophie Lee said the 180-metre long ferry Kaitaki snapped its three moorings one by one, from 7pm yesterday.

About 45 people were on board.

The boat's engines were started after the first line broke, so the ferry was able to get out into Wellington harbour with the help of two tugs. It was currently sitting in a sheltered part of Wellington Harbour, off Point Jerningham, she said.

A ferry link stand on the wharf may have been damaged, and would need to be inspected.

It was planned to bring the Kaikati back in to dock when the winds eased later today.

SOUTH ISLAND

The South Island remains in the grip of one of its worst snowstorms in more than 30 years - and there is still more to come.

The polar storm's final fling could cuff Christchurch and coastal Canterbury tomorrow morning in a repeat of that experienced today.

Computer models are picking a large area of active shower clouds will spin around the back of the low-pressure centre east of the South Island and flick another period of snow onshore.

That looks most likely to happen between about 6am and noon tomorrow.

Once that clears, wintry showers are predicted throughout tomorrow afternoon, but to a large extent the worst of the three-day storm will then be over.

In the past 48 hours, Christchurch received over half its expected rainfall for June.

Thirty millimetres of rain, sleet and snow had fallen in Christchurch since noon on Wednesday, MetService data show, and the city's average rainfall for June was usually about 56mm.

Darfield had over 54 mm, Methven 49.6mm, Le Bons Bay 33.4mm and Ashburton 66mm.

Kaikoura recorded 47mm, but no data had been received from the weather station since 7pm yesterday, so it was likely to be considerably higher, a MetService spokesman said.

The highest rainfall for June was recorded in 1995, when the city had 183mm of rain.

Most of the West Coast cut off overnight but the situation was easing today.

All three mountain passes across the Southern Alps to the West Coast were closed but the Lewis and Haast passes had reopened this morning while snow kept Arthurs Pass closed.

State Highway 1 between Kaikoura and Blenheim was also closed last night as violent winds brought down trees and roads were flooded.

Marlborough District Council civil defence spokesman Mark Wheeler said police had been able to provide safe passage to people trapped on the highway.

AUCKLAND

Lightning strikes sent a Norfolk pine crashing through a house and smashed windows in several others around Auckland last night.

The storm wreaked havoc across Auckland between 9pm and 10pm, damaging at least 12 Stanmore Bay homes north of Auckland and several in Pt England.

A man was treated by ambulance staff onsite after a Norfolk pine fell on to his house in the east Auckland suburb.

"There was a large area of debris, some nearby houses had to be evacuated and a house kit was used to cover the roof," fire northern communications shift manager Colin Underdown said.

Further north 12 houses lost power and one patient was taken to hospital with chest pains after lightning struck.

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