Severe gales lift roofs, cut power, fell trees

NICOLE MATHEWSON AND SARAH-JANE O'CONNOR
Last updated 15:59 04/03/2014

Storm hits Lyttelton marina

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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The Christchurch City Council has opened a welfare centre for people threatened by flood-waters in east Christchurch.

The centre will be open from 8.30pm at Mairehau High School, 440 Hills Rd. People are advised to bring their own bedding.

Have you suffered damage from the wind or rain? Email information and pictures to newsflow@press.co.nz

Council staff have been door-knocking in areas around Flockton and Aylesford streets to warn residents of the flood risk overnight. 

Heavy rain has already forced evacuations in central Christchurch as thousands prepare for a night without power after severe winds felled power lines and trees, lifted roofs and sent trampolines flying.

Several streets in the Mairehau area have been closed to traffic, including Carrick St, Thornton St, and Harrison St.

Part of Wakefield Ave in Sumner and part of Marine Parade and Owles Tce in New Brighton are also closed.

CCC land drainage operations manager Mike Gillooly said the road closures would be monitored overnight to stop any further damage to houses caused by "vehicle wash".

At least 20 households have been recommended to take action to protect their belongings this evening, and the council has advised some households to evacuate.

Already today parts of Christchurch and Banks Peninsula have received up to 50 millimetres of rain, with more predicted to fall overnight. Christchurch city is expected to get a further 30mm, while parts of Banks Peninsula could get another 50 to 80mm, said MetService meterologist Leigh Matheson.

Orion is warning Cantabrians without power to prepare for a night without electricity.

Power remains out to about 2500 Orion customers in Canterbury, mostly in the Banks Peninsula area. Earlier today about 7000 customers were without power after gale-force winds caused trees and branches to fall through power lines.

Orion chief executive Rob Jamieson said crews were working as quickly as possible to restore power, but high winds were hampering the effort to repair the lines.

"As you can imagine, we cannot put people into areas where there is a risk of trees falling on them," he said.

He urged anyone who saw fallen power lines to stay well clear and call 0800 363 9898 immediately.

EMERGENCY SERVICES INUNDATED

Early this morning winds reached severe gale strength in Christchurch and Banks Peninsula prompting about 100 calls for emergency help.

About 5000 homes lost power as gusts up to 160kmh felled trees, downed powerlines, damaged roofs and sent trampolines flying. Regional flights, suspended at Christchurch Airport, have resumed this afternoon.

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The Fire Service have responded to reports of roofs lifting off houses in Merivale, Lyttelton, Cass Bay, Birdlings Flat, Aranui, Bishopdale, New Brighton and the city centre.

One person had also needed to be rescued when trees fell on their vehicle, bringing powerlines down at the same time.

Trampolines have been flung across gardens and onto roofs, windows have been smashed and cars damaged.

OTHER KEY EVENTS:

- Christchurch Gondola closes for the day after recording wind gusts over 160kmh

- power cuts and cruise ship cancellations in Akaroa

- Two people were trapped in a car near the Waimakariri River after gales knocked powerlines down around their vehicle, just before 11am. The pair waited in their car at Kainga - about halfway between Christchurch and Kaiapoi - until Orion ensured no electricity was running through the lines.

- A trampoline landed on power lines in Rocking Horse Rd, Southshore

- A tree smashed through the CTV's office window on Wairakei Rd. No one was injured, said CTV head of news Jacqui Shrimpton. "I think everyone jumped out of their skin."

- A roof partially lifted off Janet Smart's newly repaired Cass Bay home

- Windows in a Cass Bay sunroom 'explode'

- Diamond Harbour ferry cancelled. Black Cat Cruises are working on some shuttle bus options

- Christchurch Airport is open and regional flights, suspended for a time by Air NZ, have resumed

- Orana Wildlife Park to closed for a short time for "containment" and safety reasons. Education manager Toby Johnson said two trees were knocked over in the public area of the park, and another fell in the rhinoceros paddock. No animals were hurt. Winds had now eased and the park reopened.

- Motorists warned to take care on State Highway 75 from Tai Tapu to Akaroa, and on State Highway 1 between Dunedin and Balclutha.

TRAFFIC DIFFICULTIES

Early morning gales saw fallen trees disrupt traffic across the city.

- One lane was closed on Hereford St, between Fitzgerald Ave and Barbadoes St while workers remove a fallen tree.

- Owles Tce was closed at Pages Rd this morning because of flooding.

- The main road between Lyttelton and Corsair Bay was closed with a detour via Cressy Tce.

Meanwhile, two cars collided at the intersection of Innes Rd and Cranford St about 9am, but the crash was caused by one driver running a red light and was not weather-related, the spokeswoman said. 

The NZ Transport Agency has also advised motorists to take care on State Highway 75 from Tai Tapu to Akaroa, and on State Highway 1 between Dunedin and Balclutha.

Strong winds meant extra care was required by motorcyclists and those driving caravans or other high-sided vehicles.

GONDOLA CLOSES AFTER RECORD WINDS

The Christchurch Gondola would be closed all day after staff recorded winds of more than 160km at the top of the Port Hills.

Operations manager Mark Forster said gales reaching 163.1kmh were recorded at the summit at 10am, but no damage had been reported. 

"It is the highest recorded speed we have had for many years," Forster said. "The big southerly's normally 120 to 130kmh, so 160 is pretty special."

The attraction was automatically closed whenever wind speeds exceeded 80kmh, which happened "two or three" times a year, he said.

METSERVICE RECORDS

The highest gusts MetService has recorded in the past 24 hours:

Sugarloaf (around 500m high) 146 kmh

Lyttelton 119kmh

New Brighton Pier 102 kmh

Christchurch Airport 93kmh

Ashburton  76kmh

 

 

- The Press

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