High winds lashing the upper North Island have knocked down trees, blown roofs off houses and cut power to thousands - with the worst yet to come.
More than 13,000 homes across Northland are without power, with the rural areas around Kaipara and Whangarei worst hit, and another 9000 homes in Auckland have been affected by power outages.
Power firms have warned that high winds are hampering efforts to restore a full service.
A Kaitaia woman escaped with minor injuries after a tree crashed through her roof and landed on her as she sat in her Northland home during the storm tonight.
The woman was trapped under the tree, and had to be freed by fire crews, Fire Service assistant area commander Shaun Pilgrim said.
She remains in a stable condition, he said.
Fire crews also rescued a driver in Kaitaia when a tree fell onto his car. The male driver was uninjured.
The Fire Service responded to more than 120 weather-related calls across Northland since mid afternoon.
There had been 40 calls in Auckland since 7pm.
Pilgrim said it was the worst weather event since Cyclone Lusi in March.
Most callouts were for roofs being blown off and trees landing on roads.
"It was a lot more wind-related rather than rain," Pilgrim said.
"It's starting to ease up. We're starting to catch up with the workload as the weather moves south-east."
He said the clean-up task was likely to take several days, or weeks.
Twelve properties in Kaitaia lost their roofs in the storm.
But the worst is yet to come - the forecast is for more severe weather between 2am and 6am.
An estimated 1100 properties will spend the night without power in the Far North after cuts earlier today, electricity company Top Energy spokesman Peter Heath said.
He said emergency fault crews would work through the night but only where it was safe to do so.
Northland Police Inspector Murray Hodson said if possible people should stay off the roads overnight.
He said the strong winds will be particularly dangerous for high-sided vehicles, such as trucks and campervans.
Auckland crews travelled to Northland this afternoon to assist with the high-volume of jobs, while back-up firefighters were on duty across the region tonight.
Northland Civil Defence Emergency Management Group spokeswoman Claire Nyberg says it was monitoring the situation closely along with emergency services and Northland District Council.
"It's started to rain in Whangarei and further up north but significant amounts aren't likely to come until 9pm."
She advised Northland residents to be careful when driving.
"Make sure you tie anything down that can travel in the wind."
Auckland has also been blasted by the strong winds - with power and transport disrupted.
In Auckland more than 9000 people were without power at 8.15pm - and many may spend the night like that, Vector Energy said.
Strong winds and driving rain forced trees and branches onto power lines, leading to widespread outages.
Vector Energy said the bulk of customers affected were in Riverhead, Helensville, Whangaripo, Waiwera, South Head, Muriwai, Tapora, the Kaipara hills and Kaukapakapa.
Spokeswoman Sandy Hodge said support staff were working to restore power but high winds were hampering their efforts.
She said they were bracing for further wind damage throughout the night, predominantly from the north east.
Wind gusts could reach as high as 120kmh in the city, MetService said.
Meanwhile, the speed limit across the Auckland Harbour Bridge was lowered to a 70kmh this afternoon, with trucks and motorcycles being urged to avoid the bridge altogether due to wild winds.
New Zealand Transport Agency has warned all drivers to take extra care and factor in the stormy conditions.
Gusts of more than 60kmh hit the bridge today and even stronger gusts were forecast for tonight.
NZTA regional journey manager Jacqui Hori-Hoult said: "Motorway drivers should be aware of others around them and the increased risk of wind gusts affecting the stability of vehicles," she said.
Hori-Hoult said the NZTA were working to minimise the impact on the road network.
"We and our contractors are working with emergency services and local authorities to keep highways and roads open.
"There may be an increased risk from storm debris in isolated areas and road users should always be alert to an unexpected hazard that may be just around the corner."
MetService advise rain in northern parts of Auckland & GBI this afternoon. Localised falls may be heavy. pic.twitter.com/aHjf9OVzhq
— Auckland CDEM (@AucklandCDEM) July 8, 2014
WINDS HIT 168KMH
Wind speeds at Cape Reinga had reached "impressive" speeds of 168kmh, according to MetService meteorologist Rob Kerr.
Further south in Kerikeri winds had reached 130kmh, Whangaparoa was gusting between 85-90kmh and around the Auckland CBD it had reached 70kmh.
Multiple electricity faults in Pukenui as a result of heavy wind and rain has had Top Energy customers without power since 6.30am this morning.
Network manager David Worsfold said crews were working to restore electricity but it was likely some customers would remain without power throughout the night.
"We're working on it as hard as we can but we will have some off overnight."
Vector and the Coastguard advised people to stock up on batteries, stay away from power lines and keep an eye out for weather reports.
* If someone in your home is dependent on medical equipment requiring electricity, make arrangements in advance for an alternative power source for emergencies.
* Have at least one phone in the house that doesn't require electricity to operate. Cordless phones or phones with built-in answering machines won't work without electricity. You will need a traditional analog phone.
* If you see a downed power line, call emergency services (111) to report its location.
* Avoid driving over downed power lines. Avoid puddles near downed power lines.
* Plug only individual appliances into portable generators. Never connect a generator to wall outlets, building wiring or your home's electrical system.
* To prepare for outages, it is wise to have plenty of fresh batteries for flashlights and radios.
* If you have a petrol-powered electric generator, use it in well-ventilated areas and only plug in individual appliances. Never connect a generator to a wall outlet of your home or building's electrical system since that can cause damage to your equipment and can be a life-threatening danger to your family, neighbours and repair crews.
* Be sure to have adequate fuel for your generator and manage consumption by running it for only a few hours at a time.
* Check media for weather updates
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