Region hit by 800 lightning strikes

Last updated 07:57 21/09/2013

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A powerful electrical storm tore up from the South Island to hit the capital last evening, causing power outages and widespread surface flooding.

The storm hit the West Coast yesterday afternoon, tearing up through the Marlborough Sounds before hitting Wellington with thunder, lightning and rain before petering out south of Masterton about 8pm.

MetService meteorologist Nicole Ranger said about 800 lightning strikes hit the Wellington region between 5pm and 8pm, and Khandallah got the worst of the rain, with 22 millimetres between 5pm and 7pm.

Meteorologist Marylin Avery said it was a particularly elevated front, with lots of warm air lingering high overhead.

She said the weather would be "very unsettled" for the next few days.

Thousands lost electricity for a short time after lightning struck a transmission line into Gracefield substation, and a second incident in Korokoro also caused an outage.

The fire service in Wellington responded to about 24 calls in an hour, most related to flooding but some as a result of alarms being set off. Crews also responded to a person trapped in a lift after power was lost to the building.

Radio New Zealand House on The Terrace was evacuated after its alarm went off - one of three callouts to the inner-city street.

Wellington City Council spokesman Richard MacLean said no property damage had been reported but there was widespread surface flooding. The council received about 100 calls, many related to manhole covers popping off with heavy stormwater flows.

Witnesses reported a small river running along Manners St and lower Cuba St, with retailers scrambling to keep the water out.

Wellington Airport and trains on the Hutt Valley line also experienced disruption.

Up to 100mm of rain was forecast for the Tararua Range overnight and early Saturday, and occasional rain and strong northerlies are forecast today in the capital, with showers and gusty northerlies for Masterton.

MetService said a low pressure front would likely bring rain to much of New Zealand over the next two days.

Aside from the east coast and the south of the South Island, rain and strengthening northerlies would feature through to early next week.

There would be showers turning to heavy and thundery rain in Northland and Taranaki tonight, while Nelson and Westland would see periods of rain, with some heavy and thundery falls from the afternoon.

From Monday things should start to ease, with a few showers in the west from Waikato southwards, becoming isolated later.

It would be mainly fine elsewhere, but heavy rain and gales were forecast to return to most of new Zealand on Tuesday.

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- The Dominion Post

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