Fire crews clean up glass from Rydges hotel car park, which
was blown out by high winds. Photo / Greg Bowker
Whanganui residents are being warned to prepare for
possible evacuations tonight as river levels continue to rise,
while Auckland cleans up as the city becomes the latest area to
be hit by strong winds.
Both the Whanganui and Whangaehu rivers are expected to peak
later, after heavy rain - which has battered much of the
central North Island for the past 24 hours - caused the
rivers to swell.
Horizons Regional Council has activated its emergency
operations centre, along with Wanganui, Rangitikei and
Ruapehu District Councils.
Some residents have already been cut off in Ohakune and
Ruapehu as lashing rain saw rising water levels and slips,
which forced the closure of State Highway 4 between Wanganui
Rising river levels may also close State Highway 3 at
Whangaehu, Horizons incident controller Ged Shirley said.
However, his team will continue to monitor the situation and
liaise with the Transport Agency.
"There is potential for the road to be closed this evening,''
The Whanganui River is forecast to peak at the Pipiriki
monitoring site at 6.30pm, reaching a level of at least 15
metres, with the lower river expected to peak at 9 metres
around 11pm tonight, said Horizons Regional Council.
It warned that evacuations are possible, and
potentially-affected residents are being contacted by
Wanganui district Council.
"We are working with Wanganui services to monitor the
situation and our barrier team are on standby in preparation
to deploy the temporary flood barrier at Balgownie,'' Mr
Staff are also monitoring water levels on the Whangaehu
River, which is expected to peak at 10 metres around 9pm this
evening. With evacuations also possible in this area,
Rangitikei District Council are contacting
The Waihenga Bridge to Martinborough may also be forced to
close due to high river levels, said Mark Allingham, general
manager of infrastructure and services for South Wairarapa
The region was badly hit with power outages during last
night's storm, and residents in Greytown were forced to go
for a period without water this morning, he said. The area
was running on reserve water supplies, but without
electricity the emergency bores could not work.
"We got the emergency bores going just as we were running
out, so we'd used all our reserves but we still had some
water left in the pipes,'' Mr Allingham said.
In other areas of the region, the Makino Stream and
Rangitikei River are also being closely monitored with no
cause for concern at this stage.
Around half a dozen Ohakune residents living on the
Mangawhero River Terrace extension have already been forced
to evacuate as the river continued to rise.
Ruapehu District Council has established a welfare centre at
the Ohakune Primary School hall.
Council chief executive and Civil Defence controller Peter
Till advised any residents who feel that they are at risk to
Meanwhile, wild winds are have been lashing Auckland city
today, with shattered windows, lifted roofs and runaway
The wind caused flight disruptions at Auckland Airport in the
late morning and early afternoon, with both domestic jet and
Air New Zealand Link services delayed and several flights
diverted to alternative ports.
One international service NZ700 from Sydney was also
diverted, to Wellington, with passengers expected to arrive
in Auckland about 4.30pm.
A gust blew out glass panels from an overhead covering at a
central city hotel.
Three glass panels were shattered by an upward gust of wind
at the Rydges Hotel on Federal Street.
No one was injured in the incident which took place before
The Fire Service was called to make it safe, smashing out and
removing the damaged panes.
Sally Stoikos, who was visiting Auckland with her family from
Melbourne, said they saw the firefighters using hammers and
axes to remove the broken glass.
Pedestrians in the central city were seen clinging to poles
as the wind hit.
Power has been knocked out in Whitford, near Flatbush, and
there are reports the roof on the Countdown in Papkura on
Great South Rd is lifting.
Trees have fallen on a houses in Avondale and bricks have
been ripped off a two-storey house in Parnell.
Beachhaven resident Jackie Gray said a trampoline from across
the street flew over the fence and into her front yard.
"It would have come inside. It was just hanging on the bush,
thank God my hedge was big enough.
"The neighbour and police came, and we just held it down.''
The trampoline was now being weighted down by ``bits of
concrete''. It was also tied down, she said.
"I was scared. Bits of metal - the legs were metal - and all
over the road. It basically would have come through the
Mrs Gray said once the Fire Service arrived, they helped
secure her neighbour's garage roof in place which had been
lifting off in the wind.
Next door, a tree about 8m tall fell onto the roof of a home.
Mrs Gray husband Stu, a local drainlayer, was helping
property owner Julie Chessum clean up.
"It could have been a lot worse,'' he said. "The local
community constable came down and he actually took the main
parts down and we followed up quickly.''
Mrs Chessum said her tenant, who wasn't home at the time,
would be surprised to have "a lot more light" streaming into
"I'm just glad no one was hurt and my house in not hurt
Power lines have snapped on Mangere's Tennessee Ave.
Mangere Fire Station officer Roy Harris said a "weather bomb
or wind bomb'' had caused the lines to snap.
"We've got multiple power lines down through here.
"A really big gust of wind has just broken [the lines].
"Just on the way as we were coming over here there were calls
to fences down, someone was looking after a roof off,
trampolines have been flying around.
"It's just really big gusts of wind that just suddenly
increase that force on things until it bursts.''
Mr Harris said some houses had lost power as a result of the
"We're still waiting for the power authority to come and
isolate the power and make it safe.''
The downed lines had been arcing but that had ceased after
the relays tripped, he said.
Fullers said that Northcote Point was now closed for ferry
services until further notice.
WeatherWatch.co.nz said winds were reaching gale force at
times with gusts to 90km/h.
Winds of this speed are mostly below damaging threshold but
wind tunnels such as in the CBD between buildings, and parts
of exposed suburbs could see minor damage, especially
branches breaking and powerlines being broken.
The warm wind direction had already pushed Auckland's high up
to 21C, well above what both main forecasters were
"This is the rough weather that was expected to arrive around
dawn, but is running a few hours late'' said head weather
analyst Philip Duncan.
"This afternoon in Auckland winds will change from gale
nor'westers to blustery sou'westers''.
The worst of the winds was at 11.30am, with gale force
northerlies gusting near 100km/h. By 12pm winds were just
below gale threshold.
Around 3000 homes are without power in the central and lower
North Island as stormy weather continues to hamper efforts to
fix electricity lines.
Nearly 20,000 properties in Wairarapa, Manawatu, Wanganui and
South Taranaki have had power cuts since severe weather hit
the country yesterday morning.
Connections had been restored to all but 3000 customers,
More than 150 field staff had been sent out to restore
electricity but difficult conditions had hindered work.
Powerco network operations manager Phil Marsh said new faults
were being found as repairs were being made.
He blamed trees for causing most of the damage.
"Many of the power cuts could have been avoided if people had
contacted suitably qualified tree trimmers to have their
trees cut or trimmed before they caused a problem,'' he said.
Mr Marsh said "good progress'' had been made in restoring
power, with the majority of south Taranaki properties
expected to be reconnected by tonight.
However, he said areas which suffered the most damage, such
as Wairarapa, may still be without electricity for a second