Tornado, rain, floods batter South Island

Last updated 12:35 10/01/2013

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Wild weather across the South Island has blown off a roof in Kaikoura, washed out a Te Anau road and toppled powerlines.

Ray Keall was standing inside his lounge when a huge gust of wind blew a neighbouring Kaikoura property's roof across the road on to his house.

And he thought to himself, ''This is going to be quite an exciting day".

Kaikoura residents reported seeing two twisters this morning as the country was lashed by gales and heavy rain. 

Southland residents were threatened by flooding, a bridge to Te Anau was washed out, isolating the town, and firefighters were called to secure roofs in Wellington.

Keall said he had lived in Kaikoura for 22 years and never felt a "gust so fierce".

He was at his Beach Rd home considering whether to play golf when the roof was blown across the road.

Colonial Court Motel manager Matt Day said two small twisters had hit Beach Rd this morning.

He had seen the roof resting on Keall's property.

''It was right beside us. A roof across the road from us has been ripped off and blown across the road into the house next door. It took out some of the powerlines," he said.

''One happened at 6 this morning and the other one was at 8.40.

''One of the guys staying here was game enough to go outside and saw two mini-twisters.''

Powerlines had been strewn across the road and traffic had been stopped for about half an hour, he said. "We currently don't have any power.''

Sergeant Julian Lewis, of Kaikoura, said it an extreme wind gust lifted the roof, rather than a mini-tornado.

No-one was injured. Power has been restored and the roof returned to its original site.

Power was cut in many areas. MainPower said several powerlines were down and linemen were working to restore electricity to houses.

Engineering network manager Peter Hurford said Beach Rd was the hardest-hit area.

The mini-tornado was likely to be a wind eddy, MetService meteorologist Daniel Corbett said.

"Some twist and spin around, and that's what happens when you get a strong gust coming through," he said.

"It's not a full tornado but more a straight-lined wind twisted off on its edges.

''At times you can see the cloud looking like a funnel. They're short- lived. They're not like the ones we see in the States."

HIGH WINDS SPARK FIRE

Akaroa was hit with strong winds, with one resident seeing orange flashes in the sky early today.

In Selwyn, several powerlines and tree branches came down in the strong winds.

Powerlines came down in Greendale, causing a scrub fire near the golf course in Coaltrack Rd about 10.30pm yesterday.

Firefighters spent two hours at the scene.

THREE ROADS CLOSED BY SLIPS

Flooding and slips are causing havoc on several South Island roads.

The NZ Transport Agency said heavy rain over the past 48 hours had closed three South Island roads, with Southland and the West Coast feeling the brunt of the bad weather.

State Highway 94 from Lunsden to Te Anau was closed because of a bridge washout at Whitestone River.

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SH6 was closed near Makarora because of flooding damage to three sections of the road and at Haast Pass because of slips.

SH73 was closed from Cass to Jacksons because of flooding and slips.

SH94 from Cascade Creek to Milford Sound would remain closed this morning until a road inspection was completed.

The NZTA receieved reports of flooding on the road at Mirror Lakes.

Acting southern region manager Ian Duncan said the approach to the Whitestone River bridge on SH94 between Lumsden and Te Anau had washed out in the same place as in 2010.

"Protection works were put in place back in 2010 but the river has washed these out, with 400 millimetres of rain having fallen in the area during last 48 hours," he said.

Motorists were urged to take care on SH1 at Gore and Lowburn because of flooding.

QUEENSTOWN, WANAKA MAY HAVE MINOR FLOODING

Minor flooding is expected in Queenstown and Wanaka today as lakes rise and rivers run high after a 24-hour downpour.

Forecast rain for the Southern Lakes dumped significant falls into the Wakatipu and Wanaka catchments yesterday and overnight.

The Otago Regional Council issued a flood warning this morning after the Wanaka catchment's rain gauge at Makarora recorded 17.6 centimetres in 24 hours, while a gauge in the upper Matukituki recorded 27cm in 24 hours.

The Matukituki River peaked  this morning at 1115 cubic metres per second.

Rainfall at Paradise from the Dart was 15.1cm in 24 hours, while the Dart River hit 1475 cumecs.

Lakes Wakatipu and Wanaka are rising and expected to peak between 3pm and 6pm today.

Wakatipu is expected to peak at about 311.4 metres and cause minor flooding to low-lying areas of Queenstown.

Wanaka is expected to rise to 280m, which will cause flooding to low-lying areas of the waterfront.

Boaties should be wary of floating debris in lakes Wakatipu, Wanaka and Hawea washed in from swollen tributaries.

High river flows are expected in the Kawarau and upper Clutha rivers and in the lower Clutha-Mata-Au downriver of Roxburgh to Balclutha for the next few days as floodwaters drain from the lakes.

Farmers are advised to move stock to higher ground and campers should take care around rapidly rising lakes and rivers.

Heavy rain caused widespread flooding in Gore, with 22 firefighters called in at 1.30am to help save properties from rising waters.

WEST COAST BATTERED BY MORE WILD WEATHER

MetService severe-weather forecaster Erick Brenstrum said high winds and rain continued to batter the West Coast last night, but conditions in Canterbury and on the Coast were expected to ease this morning.

''The weather has pretty much moved out of that area, and high winds in northern Canterbury should improve this morning,'' he said.

Mt Cook Airport recorded wind gusts of 172kmh early today, while Christchurch International Airport had 89kmh gusts.

''I wouldn't be surprised if stones were getting picked up at that level and cars were getting hit,'' Brenstrum said.

The Mt Cook area received an ''impressive'' 352mm of rain in 24 hours.

Other parts of the West Coast received 300mm of rain, but Brenstrum said the worst was over.

''Westport and Buller might still see some heavy rain, but it won't be anything in comparison to what the more southern parts of the West Coast have seen,'' he said.

A Hokitika police spokeswoman said the area received a ''lot of rain and wind overnight''.

''We're certainly all a bit tired because it was a pretty rough night, but we haven't had any reports of damage so far,'' she said.

Winds reached 111kmh in Darfield overnight, Brenstrum said

MetService yesterday issued wind warnings for Canterbury, but Brenstrum said he was confident those warnings could soon be removed.

A police spokesman said there had been no reports of damage because of high winds in Canterbury.

Christchurch was set to reach 24 degrees Celsius today and tomorrow and could hit 28C on Saturday.

''It's looking warm and dry for Christchurch. I expect some people will be hoping for a bit of rain,'' Brenstrum said.

- The Press

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