Lengthy storm cleanup looms

BLAIR ENSOR
Last updated 05:00 05/03/2014
weather chaos Banks Peninsula
STACY SQUIRES/ Fairfax NZ

CLEAN UP LOOMS: Cass Bay resident Keri Whaitiri looks out at the storm through windows broken by ferocious gusts. Winds were well over 100kmh in many areas. 

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Banks Peninsula residents face a lengthy cleanup after they bore the brunt of severe gale-force winds sweeping across the region.

Yesterday's storm cut power, closed shops and stopped cruise ship visits in Akaroa, leaving it like a "ghost town".

In Cass Bay, near Lyttelton, some residents faced a lengthy cleanup as winds lifted roofs, brought down trees and damaged property.

In Akaroa gusts of up to 130kmh yesterday damaged boats and roofs and disrupted businesses. More strong wind and rain is expected today.

Akaroa i-SITE Visitor Centre manager Christine Pryor said a power cut had closed most of the town's shops, including the i-SITE.

"It's like a ghost town," she said. "The buses turned around and went straight back to Christchurch, taking everybody back with them."

The Sea Princess cruise ship cancelled its visit to Akaroa Harbour on Monday, and the Marina cruise ship due yesterday also planned to bypass the town and head straight to Picton. Pryor said it was a blow to miss out on two cruise ship visits. "We rely on them. [They're] a good source of income."

Black Cat Cruises managing director Paul Bingham said all boat tours in Lyttelton and Akaroa harbours were cancelled yesterday, along with the Diamond Harbour ferry.

"It's definitely the wildest weather we've seen since the big storm in 2000 when the marina fell apart.

"You can't do much about it. We'd rather this came in the middle of June when there's no tourists around, but this happens."

The ferry jetty at Lyttelton had sustained some damage, but it was hoped the service could resume operating today.

Akaroa cruises were unlikely to restart today though, Bingham said. "The wind will die down, but you'll get a reasonably large swell."

Akaroa Service Station mechanic Brad Helps said the garage had been unable to provide fuel while the power was out, but the workshop remained open.

"All the businesses have shut because there's no power. There's not a lot of people around."

Helps said the town had also been affected by flooding and "lots" of broken trees and branches.

Little Bistro owner Paul Howells was trying to prepare as much food as possible on a gas cooker while the power was off yesterday afternoon.

The town had been "absolutely deserted", with "lots of debris everywhere" and several trees down.

Cass Bay resident Janet Smart, 67, was preparing a batch of scones when she heard a "thump" outside her Bay View Pl home just before 10am, yesterday. She did not realise it was bits of her roof being ripped off by the wind until a neighbour knocked on her door saying a section had smashed through a window at the front of his house.

Smart said earthquake repairs had only recently been completed at the house.

Firefighters spent time securing what was left of the roof while she battled to contact her insurance company.

"It [the weather] is crazy. I've never seen anything like that here," the Cass Bay resident of 19 years said.

"I think if I was trying to walk up the road I'd probably get blown across the road. It's quite dangerous."

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- The Press

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