Wild weather cuts off West Coast

DEIDRE MUSSEN
Last updated 16:57 21/06/2013
porters snow
Supplied
ALL WHITE: Snowboarders at Porters, where at least 70cm of snow has fallen.
whataroa landscape
Bruce Nolan
DAMAGE: Ferocious winds tore part of the roof off the Whataroa general store yesterday.

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The storm lashing the South Island left most of the West Coast cut off from the rest of the country by road overnight, but the situation was easing today.

All three mountain passes across the Southern Alps to the West Coast were closed overnight, but the Lewis and Haast and Arthurs Pass are all now open.

Chains are essential for crossing Arthur's Pass.

High winds in South Westland brought down trees across State Highway 6 between Hari Hari and Whataroa, forcing the road closed until about 9.30am today.

New Zealand Transport Agency West Coast area manager Mark Pinner said roading contractors had been busy clearing trees from the highway since late yesterday with the stretch over Mt Hercules the worst hit.

Motorists were allowed through with caution but delays were likely, he said.

Electronet had also been fixing downed power lines in the area.

SH 6 between Haast and Makarora had been closed overnight because of fallen trees but reopened about 8am this morning, he said.

Haast police said some locals had managed to get through the pass overnight.

The biggest problem was a fallen tree on Jackson's Bay Road, which partly downed a power line and pole last night.

High winds were still battering southern Westland today.

Lewis Pass between Springs Junction and Hanmer Springs, SH 7, had reopened about 11am today.

Recent rain had made the region sodden, which combined with snow and wind to cause havoc with many trees falling, he said.

In the Buller district, State Highway 6 from Westport to Nelson had remained open and had been the only way out of the West Coast until this morning.

By this morning, New World Hokitika had run out of plain milk with only cream and flavoured brands left on the shelves. 

The supermarket's joint owner, Robyn Lee, said milk supplies were due to arrive this afternoon or early evening. 

Customers were very understanding ''and it's not for long''.

''I think some customers stocked up yesterday so they won't run out."

The supermarket's bread supplier managed came via Blenheim to bring supplies today, a massive detour from their normal route over the Southern Alps.

''Our bakery also made extra bread today.''

New World Greymouth was running low on some items but expected to have enough to see it through, with some of its suppliers also chosing to travel via Blenheim to get through to the West Coast.

The bad weather also delayed investigations into an armed home invasion at Fox River on Wednesday night with ESR scientists from Nelson unable to reach Westport until midday today.

Armed intruders with disguised appearances burst into a home on State Highway 6, north of Punakaiki, about 9.30pm on Wednesday and detained the couple living there.

After remaining at the property for some time, the offenders fled in a vehicle, said Detective Sergeant Gavin Nichols, of Greymouth CIB.

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The victims were very shaken by their ordeal and had been treated for minor injuries.

Nichols expected interviews with the couple to be completed today, but said police were keen to hear from anyone in the Fox River area on Wednesday evening or who had travelled between Charleston and Punakaiki that evening.

''This is a fairly remote part of the country and there would have been very little traffic. All vehicle descriptions, whether stationary or moving would be of assistance to the inquiry at this stage.'' 

Mining contractor Richard Ellis, of Hokitika, headed to Springfield yesterday afternoon hoping to sneak through before Porter's Pass closed but was too late.

He spent the night at Springfield Hotel and worked on paperwork today while waiting for the alpine pass to open to return home.

Westpower chief executive Rob Caldwell said damage to its network was limited to South Westland. 

''We had trees through lines in South Westland from late afternoon yesterday and repair work was underway relatively quickly. Due to concerns for safety of our crews, we had to stop work late last night and as a result some Whataroa/Te Taho and Franz Josef residents spent the night without power.''

He said the network was fully restored today.

- The Press

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