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A state of local emergency has been declared in Whanganui amid fears the Whanganui River may burst its banks, flooding homes and roads.
About 110 homes were being evacuated, and 50 commercial properties were also under threat from the rising river levels.
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The river is now expected to peak around 1am on Wednesday, Civil Defence controller Kevin Ross said.
It was "too close to call" whether water would breach the sandbags erected over the last few hours.
The main site of concern is at Kowhai Park, upriver from the town centre, the Wanganui District Council said.
"The river level will remain high overnight. There is a risk that the prolonged peak may compromise the stopbanks," the council said.
Linton-based soldiers are helping with efforts to prevent damage.
An army spokeswoman said 18 territorial forces were on the ground and 50 more soldiers were on their way to help with sandbagging and evacuations.
The council said a welfare centre had been set up to help those who were evacuated, and security would be in place in the evacuated areas.
Sandbagging was under way, with some properties already threatened by a stream which had burst its banks.
"All flood waters should be considered contaminated as the sewerage system has overflowed in some places," the council said.
Fallout from the storm that swept up the country on Monday and Tuesday is still disrupting homes and commuters in many areas.
State Highway 4 between Wanganui and Raetihi was shut until mid-morning on Wednesday because of slip.
By this evening the worst of the storm had passed as the front moved away to the east.
The heavy rain that had affected a large area of the North Island today had pulled away nicely, and a showery pattern was now in place for many areas, MetService meteorologist John Law said.
Winds had also eased although some places, including Auckland, were expected to have brisk westerlies through into the evening.
Earlier gale-force winds brought down trees and damaged houses and buildings in Auckland, a day after the storm caused chaos in Wellington and the South Island.
Wellington's Johnsonville rail line was again closed today after a third slip due to heavy rain.
Buses were replacing trains on the Johnsonville train line after a slip came down south of Crofton Downs.
While the line was re-opened briefly, it had to be closed again for the afternoon while heavy machinery was brought in to fix the slip, a KiwiRail spokeswoman said.
Buses are replacing trains between Wellington and Ngaio until further notice.
Auckland fire crews have been called out to numerous weather-related incidents across the region after the storm blew in late this morning.
Manurewa fire station manager Roy Harris said power lines were down all over South Auckland.
Power companies had been called out but it could be some time before electricity was restored, he said.
Traffic lights were out at some North Shore intersections, including Browns Bay Rd and East Coast Rd.
Firefighters were also called to the Westfield Downtown Shopping Centre in the central city about 11.30am to deal with a flashing that was being blown off the roof.
Heavy winds tore off a section of cladding on a parking building in Newmarket just after midday. The area was cordoned off and the existing cladding was made secure. Police closed York St until further notice.
Bar manager Emma Happer said the wind was "going mental''.
''I didn't realise it was as extreme as it was until the fire brigade had cordoned it all off," she said.
Four firefighters were in the process of nailing a roof down in Birkdale, after sheets of metal blew into neighbouring properties in Stott Ave about 11.15am.
Gusts of up to 100kmh were being registered on the Harbour Bridge and further out in the Hauraki Gulf there were gusts of 110-115kmh.
Corbett said winds were gusting up to 90 to 95kmh at Auckland's three airports.
An Auckland Airport spokesman said a number of flights out of Auckland had been cancelled or delayed due to the high winds.
So far 11 domestic flights have been cancelled, six were delayed, and an international arrival from Singapore had to be diverted to Christchurch.
Ferries to and from Northcote Point have been cancelled until the wind abates. Commuters have been advised to keep an eye on the Fullers website for further information.
POWER STILL OUT
Authorities in other centres were this morning frantically cleaning up after yesterday's storm and to restore power to thousands of homes still without it overnight.
The strong winds tore through Waikato around midday today toppling trees and lifting roofs.
A tree fell on Hamilton resident Michelle Kruger's car in the front yard of her home. It also fell onto the house's roof.
Also in Hamilton, tractor driver Stan Shepherd had a lucky escape when part of the Marist rugby club roof was blown off and wrapped around his tractor while he was in the cab.
State Highway 4, between Whanganui and Raetihi was closed after slips made the road unsafe.
Mt Ruapehu skifields were closed as the slopes took a battering from gale-force winds, heavy rain, and freezing temperatures.
In Taranaki, the weather caused slips, flooding, road closures and power cuts.
Around 20,000 properties in Wairarapa, Manawatu, Whanganui and South Taranaki lost power at some point during the storm, Powerco said.
SH 43 between Stratford and Taumarunui was closed due to a slip in the Tangarakau Gorge, while a slip on the northern side of Mt Messenger and flooding at the tunnel also closed SH 3 to all traffic.
Surface flooding was causing trouble in many parts of Manawatu today, following last night's winds which blew down power lines and trees and lifted the roof off a house in Tararua.
Dramatic video posted online showed a bus battling with strong winds in Wairarapa before crashing through a paddock fence, narrowly missing a power pole, yesterday evening.
Jenna Snelgrove, a spokeswoman for bus company Tranzit, said the site of the crash, on the Tauherenikau Straight about 3km south of Greytown, was notoriously gusty.
Another bus driver heading in the opposite direction had seen the crash.
"He said he saw a couple of wobbles and then the front of the bus picked up and fired him across the road," Snelgrove said.
"He just had no chance.''
In Wellington the cleanup was continuing after winds up to 170kmh in exposed places smashed the region yesterday.
The weather caused the cancellation of about 59 return Air New Zealand Link services and 17 return domestic jet services into and out of Wellington yesterday.
More than 8000 passengers were affected by the cancellations. They will be accommodated on alternative services.
A Jetstar spokesman said 10 flights in and out of Wellington were cancelled yesterday, disrupting about 1200 passengers.
Loanne Newell was in central Wellington yesterday evening when three storeys of scaffolding came down.
"A strong gust of wind came along and bang - it was this burst and racket," she said. "I got my shopping bag and ran."
Then the rig toppled. "Within split seconds, the whole thing came down . . . It sounded very strong, like a jumbo jet, a very strong, scary, noisy gust."
No-one was hurt in the collapse.
Wild winds lifted roofs and felled trees across the Nelson region yesterday, leaving one Nelson woman with a smashed car and a lucky escape.
Minutes after Jo Flemming parked in the driveway of her home a wind gust tore a manuka tree out of the ground and dumped it onto the car's roof, smashing the back windscreen and denting panels.
"It's lucky no-one was in it," Flemming said.
About 2500 power customers in Kaiteriteri, Marahau, Riwaka and Motueka lost power for a time yesterday after trees fell onto power lines.
A roof was blown off a house near Kaikoura, while a falling macrocarpa tree flattened a garden shed and sleepout at another property nearby.
Liz McKenzie said she saw what looked like a mini tornado approaching from the north. It toppled all the heavy pots on her patio before taking out the tree.
At the height of the storm in Canterbury yesterday more than 2000 customers were without power, about 200 of them spending the night with no electricity.
More bad weather is on the way, with MetService warning of the possibility of severe northwest gales late Thursday and early Friday for inland parts of Southland, Otago and Canterbury.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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