Ute, cars crushed by trees as storm sweeps through Waikato

A ute on Airport Road near Hamilton was struck by falling tree branches as rain lashed the city on Tuesday afternoon. A man in the vehicle was trapped briefly but walked to an ambulance for treatment.
Kelly Hodel
A ute on Airport Road near Hamilton was struck by falling tree branches as rain lashed the city on Tuesday afternoon. A man in the vehicle was trapped briefly but walked to an ambulance for treatment.

A trio of motorists had narrow escapes after falling trees crushed their cars in two separate incidents as a storm swept through Waikato. 

It comes as a severe weather system hit much of the country with high winds and heavy downpours - grounding flights, tearing down trees and diverting ferries in the lower North Island.  

At least one motorist travelling near Hamilton Airport was trapped after a large section of a tree fell "totally encapsulated" on a ute, while two women in Tokoroa had their cars crushed in the South Waikato town on Tuesday afternoon.

A ute on Airport Road near Hamilton was struck by falling tree branches as rain lashed the city on Tuesday afternoon. A man in the vehicle was trapped briefly but walked to an ambulance for treatment.
Kelly Hodel
A ute on Airport Road near Hamilton was struck by falling tree branches as rain lashed the city on Tuesday afternoon. A man in the vehicle was trapped briefly but walked to an ambulance for treatment.

Emergency services were called to the incident on Airport Rd, near Raynes Rd, shortly before 2.30pm. 

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Two fire trucks and multiple police cars were at the scene.

The fallen branches and foliage had blocked the entire road.

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One person is understood to have been in the ITM-branded ute and were being seen and assessed in an ambulance at the scene.

Diversions were in place but delays were expected, with a large amount of traffic built up as police and fire worked together to clear Airport Road.

Senior station office Darren Bowler said emergency services were attending multiple incidents of fallen trees since the downpour began.

"Obviously we just had that weather event. We've had three trees around the city go down at the same time," Bowler said at the scene.

"We're off to another one, to another call. We were redirected as we found out this person was trapped ... a very large tree totally encapsulated that car.

"We've cut the tree with a chainsaw, and then we've extricated them with our rescue gear.

"They walked away from the incident and they're in the ambulance, so they're assessing them now as to what injuries. They did walk to the ambulance, so that's a good sign."

The person was transported to Waikato Hospital with moderate injuries, St John's Ngaire Jones said. 

Meanwhile, two people were lucky to be alive after wild weather uprooted a large tree and crushed their cars in Tokoroa.

Tokoroa Fire Chief Dave Morris said one of the vehicles was being driven down Tainui St outside a school at the time.

"One lady was driving her car and the other was stopped outside the school," he said.

"They are very lucky to only have minor bruising as their cars are completely written off." 

Morris said he was amazed the incident wasn't worse.

"It was quite a large well established tree, I'd say about 50 years old, and the whole thing has just been uprooted," he said.

"When we arrived they were already out of their cars but I got them checked out by an ambulance just in case.

"All I can say is they are very bloody lucky."

He said the tree was one of several to come down in the South Waikato town amid torrential rain and strong winds.

"There are about seven or eight trees around town that have come down blocking roads but this is the most serious one," he said.

NIWA meteorologist Seth Carrier said the storm that hit Waikato was a "well defined front" that moved through the region quite quickly. 

The highest wind speed to hit Hamilton was 60 kilometres per hour, and 8.6 millimetres of rain fell between 2 - 4pm.

New Zealand was stuck between two different different weather systems on Tuesday - a strong low pressure system from the South and high pressure system from the North, Carrier said.

This caused strong winds right across the country, he said. 

In Wellington, gusts reached 105 kmh at Wellington Airport and 137 kmh at the top of Mt Kaukau, in the city's northern suburbs.

Carrier said Waikato had seen the worst of the storm by 4 pm and the weather in the region would be consistent for the next few days.

"I would expect the temperature to sit between 24 - 26 degrees from Thursday until Sunday."

There may be a chance of showers in Waikato on Sunday, but not to the same extent as Tuesday. 

He expected the weather across the country would also be settled for the next few days, apart from the West Coast of the South Island, which would remain windy and rainy.  

Stuff