Wild weather topples trees, rips roof off
Baby, tractor driver have lucky escapeMATT BOWEN
A falling tree branch nearly injured a baby as violent winds tore through the Waikato ripping off roofs, toppling trees and closing roads.
Emergency services were flat out this afternoon after the ''terrific'' wind gust ripped up everything in its grasp from Raglan to Hamilton to Waihi.
But apart from a few shaken nerves there were no serious injuries reported.
At Princes St a family and a 13-month-old infant were fortunate not to suffer injuries when a sizeable branch cracked off a ''massive tree'' and landed on their roof as they drove along the street.
Emma Manssen, 22, was watching the horizontal rain outside her Annex Group office when she heard ''a big bang''.
''There was a tree that fell onto a minivan and crushed it,'' Ms Manssen said. ''The car's damaged but the people were okay. I called an ambulance and they came and looked after them. It's a really big old tree and the piece of tree blocked the whole road.''
It's understood a family of five, including a 13-month-old infant, were inside the van and the baby was taken to a nearby clinic for a check-up.
At about the same time, across town, lawn mower Stan Shepherd, 63, was parked in the Hamilton Marist Rugby Club carpark when the heavy rain rolled in.
Then came the ''terrific wind'' from the west.''
Everything was flying side-on straight past the tractor window,'' he said. ''I was seeing the air full of stuff, debris.The blow was so powerful it peeled ''about a quarter'' of the club's corrugated iron roof off.
''[The roof] came towards the tractor slowly, you wouldn't believe it and I thought: 'It's going to hit me'. I just had a flight to Austrailia and they have this crash position so I got into the crash position, bent down lower than the steering wheel, then it crashed into the tractor.''
Scanning the scene afterwards, Mr Shepherd could believe a four-by-two didn't puncture the cab window. ''The gust was phenomenal. I've never experienced a gust like it. I can't believe that across the road the roofs are still on houses. Looking back now it must have been like the inside of a tornado.''
Northern fire service communications shift manager Megan Ruru said there was damage across the Waikato, Bay of Plenty and Auckland.
''It's trees down on roads, power lines down and trees on fire due to lines coming down on trees,'' she said.
Hamilton resident Michelle Kruger was at home watching Desperate Housewives when she saw a tree in her front yard topple onto her car.
''My car!'' was all she was thought as the trunk crashed onto the Nissan Logo.''It was very very windy,'' she said.''I was in the house watching television and when you look out the front window you can see the tree and it just came down onto the car and the house's roof.''
There was minor damage to the uninsured vehicle and the house's gutter.
Fire fighters were on the scene at Bankwood Rd, Chartwell, in a matter of moments to remove the storm debris.
Emergency services are busy dealing with other incidents caused by strong winds around the district.
State Highway 4, between Whanganui and Raetihi, has been closed until further notice. Slips have made the road unsafe for motorists.
Road authorities are working to clear the debris.
BAD WEATHER CLOSES MT RUAPEHU
Mt Ruapehu skifields are closed today as the slopes get a battering from bad weather.
Gale-force winds, heavy rain, and freezing temperatures are expected for both the northern and southern slopes of the mountain today.
Snow is forecast for this afternoon, but it is now "wet and misty" on the mountain, Mt Ruapehu spokeswoman Annah Dowsett says.
Although the weather is "inclement", snow would be a good outcome, she says.
"Any snow is helpful, it freshens things up."
There is still plenty of time for mountain-goers to get up there before the season ends, as Whakapapa skifield closes on October 29 and Turoa on November 10.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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