All hands on deck as winds leave destruction
AL WILLIAMS AND TRACY MILES
Gales battered South Canterbury yesterday, contributing to several fires, bringing down trees, tearing roofs, ripping fences and lifting garden sheds.
Timaru Fire Service was still battling five fires last night. By 7.30pm the service had attended 33 callouts in the day, while Waimate Fire Brigade had 19, Temuka and Geraldine nine each, Pleasant Point six and St Andrews three.
"The forecast is for the wind to drop around midnight. We're hoping it drops, otherwise we'll be on the go for a number of hours," fire service acting area commander Steven Greenyer said.
About 15 off-duty staff were called in mid-afternoon as downed power lines sparked fires and vehicles were overturned.
South Canterbury principal rural fire officer Rob Hands said officers struggled to get a blaze in Seven Sisters Rd near Pleasant Point under control.
Last night it was being left to burn because it was too dangerous for firefighters to be in the plantation.
Timaru Airport reported gusts of 102kmh at 4pm while winds were blowing at 120kmh in Fairlie by 2pm. In the high country, Aoraki-Mt Cook reported winds of 124kmh about noon.
The wild weather also delivered warm temperatures with Timaru Airport recording the national high of 21.4 degrees Celsius at 1pm.
Residents reported downed trees, flying outdoor furniture, and a garden shed in Hunter Rd near Waimate was ripped from its foundations and propelled several metres through the air.
Alpine Energy declared an internal state of emergency.
By early last night, power had been restored to all but 500 houses spread across the network.
As of last night there were general warnings for caution on the Waimate Gorge Rd and in the Mackenzie Country.
In the Mackenzie, Monument Rd and Trentham Rd were closed because of fallen trees, and road users were advised to use extreme caution due to the number of trees down.
Temuka police Constable Richard Pattie said he fielded numerous calls about fallen trees.
In Tekapo, Senior Constable Brent Swanson said rough wind and rain was hammering the area but no damage had been reported.
Omarama Constable Nayland Smith said the wind flared up for an hour but soon receded.
In Timaru, Sergeant Dave Hinde said there had been a few reports of fallen trees but no road closures.
Eagle Air reported the evening Wellington to Timaru flight cancelled.
BY THE NUMBERS
Timaru airport: 102kmh recorded 4pm.
Fairlie: 120kmh at 2pm.
Aoraki-Mt Cook: 124kmh noon.
Over 80 from 1.45pm.
500 houses without power last night.
- © Fairfax NZ News