Gales hit Canterbury, take aim at North

SIOBHAN DOWNES
Last updated 09:24 04/03/2014
ON THE MOVE: A low moves up the country this morning in this 7.50am rain radar image from MetService.
MetService
ON THE MOVE: A low moves up the country this morning in this 7.50am rain radar image from MetService.

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Severe gales moving up the country have slammed Canterbury, cutting power to more than 1000 homes, and forecasters are warning of more to come.

MetService has issued a severe weather warning for southwest gales for Otago Peninsula, Christchurch and Banks Peninsula, Kaikoura and coastal Wairarapa.

Gusts in those areas were expected to strengthen to 120kmh, possibly reaching 140kmh in higher parts of Banks Peninsula.

The winds in Canterbury had reached severe gale strength early this morning, with gusts cutting power to just over 1000 homes on Banks Peninsula about 7.15am.

Lines company Orion expected to have power restored to the affected homes in Akaroa, Flea Bay and Stony Bay within three hours.

Another fault this morning also cut power to 132 homes in Le Bons Bay and Takamatua for about two hours, while a third cut power to about 166  homes in the Duvauchelle area for about four hours.

Just under 50 homes in Doyleston, Irwell and Leeston were also hit by a power cut about 7.15am. Orion expected to have power back on at those homes about 10.15am.

MetService forecaster John Law said a deep low off the south-east coast of the South Island would bring more heavy rain and strong winds to Banks Peninsula and Christchurch today.

Between 6am and 8am, Christchurch Airport had experienced wind gusts of about 80kmh, while Lyttelton had been hit by gusts of 119kmh.

"There's still more to come. The winds will be carrying on throughout the day, easing in the early hours of Wednesday."

The rain was expected to return about 2pm, but the worst would come tonight, with almost 20mm expected to fall over the city between 6pm and midnight.

Christchurch Airport remained open this morning, but staff were monitoring the strong winds "very closely", a spokeswoman said.

Flights were arriving and departing as normal, but passengers were advised to keep up to date by checking the airport's website and with their airlines.

WELLINGTON: CALM BEFORE THE STORM

The calm weather in Wellington this morning was ''pretty much the calm before the storm'', which was due into the city and exposed areas of Wairarapa this afternoon.

The low east of central New Zealand was ''spiralling away'', MetService forecaster Liz Walsh said.

''As it comes up it's going to deliver some pretty heavy gales to exposed coastal parts of both islands.''

The West Coast of the South Island would avoid the brunt of the severe weather, Walsh said.

"In this situation where you have bad weather on the east coast, often the West Coast is fine, and that is the case today."

It was also a "different story" up in the far north, with long fine spells and a few light showers in the west.
 
Auckland Airport experienced a low of 13 degrees, Walsh said.

"It's quite an array of differences across the country at the moment."

CHILLY START

The wintry chill overnight meant a freezing start in parts of the lower North Island.

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Overnight lows saw a high point on the Desert Rd in the central North Island drop to -1.6degC early this morning, Pahiatua in Tararua to freezing, and Taupo to just 1C.

Wellington was warmer with Kelburn only dropping to 6.5C and Wainuiomata to 4.1C early today, MetService forecaster Liz Walsh said.

Palmerston North dropped to 2.8C, Levin to 4.6, and Masterton to 3C.

- Fairfax Media

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