Counting the cost of the storm
Council official: "It's been brutal"TIMARU HERALD STAFF REPORTER
Forestry firms and roading contractors are still counting the costs of the last two days of wild winds.
Gale-force winds toppled trees, cut power and sparked multiple call-outs to the fire service throughout South Canterbury in the last 24 hours.
Winds reached gusts as high as 100kmh in Timaru yesterday afternoon, and a top speed of 140kmh was recorded at the Mt John Observatory at Lake Tekapo late Tuesday, although staff reported it had ''died down'' to about 70kmh by 10.30am today.
Timaru District Council's land transport manager Andrew Dixon said issues with powerlines were ongoing.
''We can't do anything on some of these roads until the powerlines have been made safe. Badham Rd [near Temuka] has 20 power poles down,'' Mr Dixon said.
As of this morning, Rolleston Rd, Burnham Rd, Chalmers Rd, Lewis Rd, Fitzgerald Rd and Seaforth Rd were all closed as contractors attempted to clear toppled trees, while staff were awaiting a response from lines company Alpine Energy about the Milford-Clandeboye Rd.
''It's been brutal,'' Mr Dixon said.
Mackenzie District Council's asset manager Bernie Haar said contractors were hard at work clearing trees from several roads in the Kimbell and Ashwick flat areas. Contractors for lines company Alpine Energy were also assisting after trees crashed into power poles.
"All the workers have been very careful, particularly after the lightning strikes last night. Everyone is making sure they keep themselves out of harm's way,'' Mr Haar said.
The heavy winds and snow in July affected large chunks of the Mackenzie district's forestry holdings. Mr Haar said it was mainly ''smaller, private'' holdings affected this time.
LIGHTS OUT ACROSS REGION
More than 1000 people were still without power across the region, as contractors scrambled to outlying areas.
Alpine Energy chief executive Andrew Tombs said part of Waimate township and outlying areas in Fairlie and Geraldine were still affected. Mr Tombs said he was confident power would be restored today.
A pivot irrigator tumbled its way through nine power poles at Railway Reserve between Waimate and Studholme during the high winds yesterday.
Poles were also down in Clayton Rd near Lake Opuha.
Mr Tombs said he had contacted neighbouring lines companies for support but all resources were stretched. He understood 20,000 households were still without power in Christchurch.
"Everyone from Christchurch to North Otago is battling the aftermath of the storm. At the moment we can't get any extra hands or resources."
Mr Tombs encouraged residents to look out for each other and check on elderly family members and neighbours.
THE CALM AFTER THE STORM
Timaru and Waimate fire services received more than 60 weather-related calls in three hours yesterday afternoon, but had a reasonably quiet night as the storm headed up the country.
Long-serving staff were describing the storm as on par with the winds that wrecked Canterbury in 1975.
"We were called to a lot of small incidents, loose roofs flapping, sections of iron off, small fires, trees and powerlines down," Timaru Senior Station Officer Martyn Bennett said. "There was little the crews could do as the conditions were too dangerous to attempt to remove the iron.
"In most cases we secured it as best we could and told property owners to contact their insurance companies."
Two Timaru crews headed north with the storm, assisting Ashburton crews with similar callouts late in the evening. One crew returned to Timaru around 10pm and the other three hours later.
While all highways in South Canterbury are open today, the Timaru police were aware of at least 30-40 other roads throughout Canterbury that were blocked by fallen trees.
STORM DESTROYS HISTORIC LANDMARK
A Burkes Pass landmark fell victim to last night's storm, when a lightning strike split in two the historic oak tree outside the former Burkes Pass Hotel.
The tree was moved to the site in 1897 to mark Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee. Prior to that it had been in the Burkes Pass Cemetery for 20 years.
''She will be sadly missed as this was shelter for many cyclists in the heat of the summer and photographed by many when covered in snow in the winter,'' resident Dave Taylor said.
RESIDENTS ASSESS DAMAGE
Gusts of wind left one Coonoor Rd property worse for wear after a hedge blew over, breaking free of some of its roots.
Resident Cath Bunting made the discovery last night. She estimated the hedge to be as old as the house, which dates back somewhere between 1910 and 1915.
''She's a gone-burger now, though,'' she said of the hedge, which is now resting alongside the driveway.
Strong winds also tore an iron roof off a shed at Sacred Heart Basilica.
Helen Simmons, of Holy Family Parish, heard the event unfolding about 2.30pm.
"I was in the office. It was such a noise. We originally thought it was St John's hall and then we realised it was the garage."
A car in a neighbouring garage avoided any damage.
"It was amazing how unscathed everything was with this stuff falling on it."
EDITOR'S NOTE: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Canterbury's last major windstorm was in 1976. The year was 1975.
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