Auckland braces for storm
CALEB HARRIS, TOM HUNT, MICHAEL FORBES AND JOELLE DALLY
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As power slowly gets reconnected to houses in both islands knocked out by yesterday's storm, Aucklanders are bracing for high winds and heavy rain.
Wild winds and thunderstorms over the past 24 hours felled trees, downed power poles, sparked numerous scrub fires, overturned vehicles and sent roofs and debris flying. Flights into the capital were cancelled, stranding more than 800 passengers.
Now Auckland is in the storm's sights.
Rain which had been falling for most the night and all of the morning would become heavier across the region over the next eight hours, with up to 35mm an hour expected to fall in some areas, Auckland Civil Defence said.
Wind gusts would reach up to 90kmh.
There was a risk of surface flooding and streams and waterways breaching their banks, a civil defence spokesman said.
"The Auckland Civil Defence Emergency Coordination Centre is monitoring the weather situation and working with emergency services."
Early today strong winds were still affecting Gisborne and Hawke's Bay, with a possibility of gusts up to 120kmh, but MetService said there was a general easing trend.
During the night gusts reached about 110kmh in Hawke's Bay and 100kmh in Gisborne.
The main front responsible for the storm was around Taranaki about 6am and moving northwards.
Heavy rainfall could continue for central areas of the North Island through to about midday, and for the Bay of Plenty through to the early hours of tomorrow.
POWER RESTORED TO MANY
Power has been restored to another 4000 Cantabrians overnight, but up to 17,000 are still without electricity.
Residents in outlying areas west and north of Christchurch, and some in the city, experienced a second night in darkness and power companies have warned some may be off the grid for up to five days.
Millions of dollars worth of insurance claims were also expected after the storm.
In the lower North Island almost half the thousands of homes without power were back on the grid.
But still, 2200 homes in Wairarapa, 60 in Taranaki, and 200 in Manawatu remain without electricity.
Powerco is warning people to stay away from downed powerlines that came down in gales which gusted to 120kmh yesterday in Wairarapa, Tararua and Manawatu.
At the storm's peak, 9000 customers in those areas lost power yesterday.
A Powerco spokesman this morning confirmed 5500 customers were without power.
That was reduced to 2460 later in the morning.
Powerco network operations manager Phil Marsh said live wires on the ground could kill and people should call Powerco on 0800 27 27 27 if they see any.
"Powerco expects to restore the majority of supply by the end of [today] barring further severe weather but there are likely to be a few isolated areas where customers may be without supply for a further two to three days due to the extent of the damage and the tree work and significant rebuilding which will need to be completed."
Wellington Electricity spokesman Drew Douglas understood all Wellington homes were this morning connected to power. Yesterday morning 72 homes lost power for a few hours at Horokiwi.
Twelve schools closed yesterday due to the outages.
Three sections of South Island highway remained closed early today.
The Lewis Pass and Haast Pass routes were closed by flooding, while snow and avalanches had closed State Highway 94 between Te Anau and Milford Sound.
NZ Transport Agency area manager Peter Robinson said the storm which hit Fiordland on Tuesday was one of the worst in 25 years.
Avalanches affected a 12km stretch on the Milford Rd, including a section which was hit by three separate avalanches leaving a five-metre deep layer of snow, he said.
The road to Milford has been closed since Tuesday and the authority hoped to have it reopened before the weekend.
In Clareville, near Masterton, a truck and campervan were blown over and a tree collapsed on a fire engine.
The engine had parked in a driveway in Chester Rd to inspect a fallen tree and power pole when another tree fell on top of it. One man was trapped briefly in the truck but he escaped unharmed.
A campervan was also knocked over by the wind on West Taratahi Rd in the same area. One person was trapped momentarily and the driver suffered minor injuries.
The driver of another truck-and-trailer blown over north of Masterton said he was a "lucky boy".
The empty upside-down trailer stayed attached to the truck as he steered it off the road and through a fence into a paddock, fighting to stay upright.
"I just felt it go light and I knew it had gone . . . she's bloody windy mate, too windy."
Two other truck-and-trailers were also flipped by the wind.
About 9.10am strong winds plucked one truck off State Highway 2 north of Masterton and dumped it in a pine plantation, destroying 100 metres of fence and scattering freight among trees.
Another truck toppled over at Clareville, causing the diversion of SH2 traffic. No-one was hurt in either accident.
Police also had to stop a train preparing to leave Masterton Station when part of a roof was blown on to the tracks. A broken barrier arm further down the line also had to be cleared.
Senior Sergeant Carolyn Watson said road policing staff from Wellington were brought in to help Wairarapa officers.
BABY BORN INTO TEMPEST
An irrigator has been snapped in the wind, the power is out at the farm, and there are 2200 "very impatient" cows waiting to be milked.
Yet Orari farmer Ben Jaunay's last 48 hours have been memorable for another reason - the birth of his first daughter.
Jaunay's wife, Teri, gave birth at noon on Tuesday to the couple's first daughter, and fourth child, at Timaru Hospital. So far, so hectic.
However, Jaunay received a call "around 5pm" that gale-force winds in excess of 100kmh had cut power to his farm and bent a pivot irrigator in two. He drove back to the farm, while his wife stayed in hospital overnight.
"I didn't realise how fierce the winds were until I got back. It's the last day of the year you want to be called back to tend to the farm," Jaunay said.
"The cows were absolutely desperate to be milked. They were going without water. On a farm with 2200 dairy cows, that can cause all sorts of issues."
When the Timaru Herald visited the Orari farm yesterday afternoon, they had just managed to bring in a generator to get the farming operations up and running again.
"The cows are ready to be milked, but we've been told the main power is not going to be back until at least the morning," Jaunay said.
"We've got a lot of cows just fighting for a space on the platform. It's hard to get my head around what's happened in the last 48 hours. I'm ready to crawl into bed."
However, Jaunay was not worrying too much. It would all be sorted soon, while their young daughter, who does not have a name yet, has been brilliant.
"She's been so calm," he said.
"Really, it's been fine. We'll have a great story to tell her when she's older."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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