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Gales lash top of country

Last updated 16:58 21/01/2014

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Strong winds have brought down trees and power lines in Auckland and the Waikato, cutting power to thousands of homes.

The wind, the remnants of Cyclone June, buffeted the upper North Island with gusts up to 100kmh  from about 2pm today.

Fire communications manager Tania Matthews said they had received about 24 calls of trees and power lines down, mainly in the Auckland area.

Most of the calls had come from central and eastern parts of Auckland though there had been a couple of incidents reported in west Auckland and the Waikato.

"It's mainly trees on roads, trees on cars, trees on houses," she said.

There had been no reports of people injured or trapped by debris, she said. 

Vector spokeswoman Sandy Hodge said there had been seven weather-related outages in the northern part of the network affecting 5538 customers.

Waiwera had 99 customers affected, Puhoi 149, Parakai 444, Maraetai 151, Whangateau 1366, Snells Beach 2896 and Muriwai 533.

Hodge said the wind "looks to be abating" and crews were working to restore connections.

NZ Transport Agency spokesman Ewart Barnsley said gusts of up to 81.5kph had been recorded on the Auckland Harbour Bridge and motorcyclists and high-sided vans were advised to avoid using it.

Traffic on SH1 through Warkworth was delayed by downed powerlines. 

National Journey Manager Kathryn Musgrave said people should take "extreme care" and "be aware of the vehicles around them and any sudden movements due to the extreme weather”.    

RAIN TOO

Heavy rain had hit Taranaki and Wairarapa with Kapiti and Wellington also getting a good dousing over the past 12 hours.

MetService forecaster Liz Walsh said Dawson Falls in Taranaki had received a dump of 112mm over the past 24 hours while Ngawi, on Wairarapa's south coast, had been inundated with 66mm over the past 12 hours, 17.44mm of that falling between 10am and 11am.

In the same period the Rimutaka summit got 52.1mm while the Orongorongos got 49.5mm. 

Parts of Tararua district had also received more than 50mm overnight.

''These fronts have been steadily moving across the North Island and will lie to the east of Hawke's Bay by this afternoon - there is a clearing trend but we have to get through tomorrow first,'' Walsh said.

Walsh said rain fell across many parts of the country yesterday and overnight, but had tended to be steady rather than heavy.

In Northland Kerikeri had 42.2mm over 24 hours, Kaitaia had 21mm and Warkworth had 22mm.

In many areas, farmers are hoping the rain keeps coming to boost grass growth hit by rapidly drying soils.

Waikato Federated Farmers President James Houghton said the rain was needed as many parts of the Waikato were drier now than they were last year when the North Island was entering one of the most extreme droughts in memory.

Recent dry weather was starting to have an impact.

"The growth rates have diminished quite quickly over the past 10 days," Houghton said, adding farmers would need about 40mm to 50mm to make a significant impact.

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