Wild winds rip through region
Waimate bears brunt of windstormTIMARU HERALD STAFF REPORTER
Heavy winds battered South Canterbury on Tuesday afternoon, downing power lines, sparking fires and causing vehicles to overturn.
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Waimate man Doug Sail said his vehicle felt as though it was going to be blown off the road on his way home from his Timaru workplace.
Mr Sail said there were trees down ''all over the Waimate golf course'' and school buses had been cancelled.
Waimate appeared more affected by wind damage than Timaru, he said.
Police were warning motorists travelling between Oamaru and Dunedin on State Highway 1 - particularly high-sided vehicles, campervans and motorcyclists - to take extreme care or delay their travels due to severe winds battering that part of the Otago East Coast.
Police attended two separate incidents on SH1 - one on Dunedin's Northern Motorway and the other just north of Maheno (south of Oamaru) - involving trucks that have been blown over due to the high winds.
Powerlines had also been blown down and caused vegetation fires in several areas, including Waimate and Glenavy.
South Canterbury principal rural fire officer Rob Hands said firefighters were trying to get a blaze in Seven Sisters Rd, near Pleasant Point, under control. Power lines were reportedly down in that location.
Meanwhile, fires in the Hakataramea Valley, Fairlie and Waimate areas were under control, he said.
Timaru police Sergeant Dave Hinde said there had been a few reports of fallen trees, but no road closures as yet.
Temuka police Constable Richard Pattie said he had fielded ''multiple calls'' regarding tree falls.
Senior Constable Brent Swanson said Tekapo was experiencing rough wind and rain, but no damage had been reported.
''We're a bit more used to it up here,'' he said
Omarama Constable Nayland Smith said the wind flared up for an hour, but quickly receeded.
''I was covering Kurow today and it was worse there, but no damage to report,'' he said.
Alpine Energy had declared an internal state of emergency, with all hands on deck to tackle widespread power outages.
Chief executive Andrew Tombs called it a ''very serious event''.
''Business as usual has stopped and all hands are on deck. One lady called in to say her garden shed had been ripped off its foundations and blown several metres off the ground.''
Mr Tombs said there were major outages reported all around the district, from the south to the Rangitata and Mackenzie, with reports of lines down and power poles snapped.
''We're concentrating on getting the main sub transmission lines back on. That will get power to the biggest number of consumers sooner.
''We will be assessing how quickly we can restore power to the lower voltage lines, which may require repairs or switching over to other circuits.
''Fault men have already been dispatched all over the network.''
Mt Cook Village was battered by heavy winds earlier in the day.
Shino Nakajima, who works at the visitors centre at Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park, said the gusts were as heavy as 120kmh throughout the morning.
"It's been pretty heavy, I could really hear it bash against my house last night," she said.
"People are keeping safe and staying away from the mountains and the huts, there is an avalanche warning. Everyone's trying their best to stay warm and safe."
It is understood that the winds were just as fierce at Glentanner Station, and other parts of the high country ranges of the Mackenzie District.
A front was expected to move over the South Island today, reach the lower North Island tomorrow night and clear the upper North Island overnight on Thursday, MetService said. Residents were warned of the risk of rapidly rising rivers, flash flooding and falling power lines and trees.
"This front is preceded by a very strong northwest flow, with heavy rain and thunderstorms about the West Coast from Fiordland to Nelson, spreading east over the Otago and Canterbury headwaters," MetService advised.
Up to 300 millimetres of rain was expected for the Westland ranges and the Main Divide, with 150mm to 250mm within 30 kilometres east of the divide.
Peak rainfall intensities of 20mm to 30mm an hour were expected about the Southern Alps and northern Fiordland ranges.
Northwesterly winds were are expected to rise to severe gale - above 89kmh - for most eastern parts of the South Island, and also Fiordland, Wellington and the east of the North Island, with gusts of 120kmh.
Damaging gusts could reach 140kmh about inland Canterbury and the Canterbury Plains north of the Rangitata River.
- © Fairfax NZ News