About 1900 homes could be without electricity overnight as lightning hampers repair efforts.
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A severe weather warning is in place for Otago, Canterbury and Marlborough, with MetService forecasting gale-force winds of up to 120 kilometres per hour.
Police had been called to Summit Rd near Little Akaloa where a campervan had been blown onto its side.
Police advised motorists not to use the Summit Rd unless necessary, as high winds were making conditions on the road dangerous.
The winds moved in on the Canterbury region overnight, with emergency crews kept busy dealing with trees over roads and powerlines which ignited a number of fires.
More than 2000 Canterbury homes are without power due to the weather.
Orion spokesman Stu Kilduff said there were now 1900 of their customers without power.
He said efforts by crew working to fix the faults were being hampered by "patches of lightning that had come through".
"They can't actually get up there to fix them. At the moment we're just trying to separate all the faulty bits from the good bits.
"There are patches of sizeable damage."
All the damage had been from trees falling on powerlines.
Kilduff was not sure how much repair work could be done today, and said customers could be without power overnight.
MainPower engineering manager Peter Hurford said about 1000 customers were off in their operating area earlier, mainly in the Oxford area, but about half were now back on the grid.
The remaining customers could expect power to be back on this afternoon.
The weather has also delayed the start of the Akaroa cruise season.
The Sea Princess was to be the first ship to berth in Akaroa Harbour tomorrow, but it has been delayed by a day because of the weather conditions in the North Island, and will now arrive at 6am on Wednesday.
Damage in Oxford
Roofing iron has blown off the Oxford Town Hall, leaving it exposed to the elements, Oxford Volunteer Fire Brigade chief fire officer Trevor Ealam said.
''We have closed off part of Main St. Half of the roofing iron would have come off. The rain will be going in there,'' he said.
The town was looking was ''quite messy'' with iron and debris floating around.
''It's rubbish day in Oxford and there is just glass all over the place.''
The brigade responded to more than a dozen call outs this morning, including an out-of-control rubbish fire, fuelled by the strong gusts, Ealam said.
''The wind has just started to come up again now.''
A Fire Service spokesman said State Highway 72 into Oxford was closed as trees had fallen on the road.
They were helping clear a number of other roads blocked with trees and had also been responding to "two or three roofs lifting" in the town. A fire had been reported in Bennetts Rd, and grass fires had started in Hampden.
Jobs had been "steady" all morning, he said.
5000 lightning strikes
Parts of the country were also being "lit up like a Christmas tree" by lightning strikes, MetService forecaster Dan Corbett said.
Between 10am and noon almost 5000 strikes were recorded.
Most of those were on the West Coast, although some were spilling over to the east.
The greatest concentration had been in Westland, Corbett said.
The thunder risk would move northwards through the day, probably getting to Taranaki later tonight or early tomorrow.
Winds should ease in Canterbury this afternoon and in Marlborough this evening, as the wild weather moves up the country.
Heavy rain is predicted for the west of the South Island, as well as the Canterbury and Otago headwaters.
Damaging winds are expected for the lower North Island, and the east of both islands from Wairarapa to Otago.
MetService said the system would bring rain to most of the country, especially western regions.
The front is expected to move on to the lower South Island this morning, then sweep north to lie over the lower North Island tonight, and clear the island tomorrow.
Farmers hit again
Federated Farmers' adverse events spokeswoman, Katie Milne, said it was a "back to the future" type scenario for many in Canterbury today.
"We're hoping it's different areas or not the same farms affected."
Milne said it would be "demoralising" for many who have just finished cleaning up after Septermber's storm.
Farmers who had been repairing infrastructure and paying people to clean up mess on their properties would be under "more financial strain".
She had not yet heard if there were any more damage to irrigators.
Coupled with a harsh winter which saw heavy snow dumps around the region, they were looking out for the wellbeing of farmers.
"The old nerves and stress levels will be up there," she said.
Federated Farmers mid-Canterbury provincial president Chris Allen said they were still trying to determine the extent of wind-related damage.
"Five weeks on from the last wind storm we may be back to square one. At least the MetService gave us a warning on Friday this wind was on the cards.
"Anecdotally, it seems Mid Canterbury may have lost yet more shelter belts and the power has been spotty."
Their first objective was to get "a better handle on things" to discuss farmer needs with the council and Rural Support Trusts.
Care urged on roads
The NZ Transport Agency had also issued a warning on SH73 from Springfield to Arthurs Pass, and Lewis Pass on SH7 from the Hanmer Springs turnoff to Springs Junction.
The thermal pools in Hanmer Springs were closed until 2pm due to fallen trees.
The NZ Transport Agency urged care to be taken by campervans, caravans, high-sided vehicles and motorbikes.
SH6 from the Gates of Haast to Haast Pass has also been closed again because of further rock slips.
- © Fairfax NZ News