Dunedin warm as wild weather hits

Fierce thunderstorms are marching up the South Island unleashing a staggering 10,000 lightning strikes in just two hours.

The spectacular storms, which are working their way up the West Coast, started in Fiordland around 1am.

On the other coastline Dunedin was already sweltering above 20C at 6am as sizzling heat from Australia started to warm up eastern regions before dawn.

Southern night skies are being constantly illuminated as lightning bolts flash a whopping 45 times every minute.

MetService said the storms would continue to affect the entire West Coast today with rain and wind warnings issued for much of central and southern New Zealand.

Heavy rain is expected to drench parts of the West Coast and Tararua Ranges north of Wellington for the next 36 hours.

People are being warned to watch for flooding and slips with waterways expected to rise dramatically and driving conditions becoming hazardous.

Strong damaging winds are expected to barrel through eastern regions of both islands for the next two days.

The winds are expected to gust up to 130 km/h in Wellington and top of the South Island from dawn until mid-morning tomorrow.

The powerful and damaging gales will be felt as far south as Southland and Stewart Island.

Travel is starting to be disrupted with ferry sailings across Wellington Harbour now reduced because of deteriorating conditons and drivers heading over the Rimutaka Hill Rd warned to watch for strong wind gusts.

A storm warning is in force for Cook Strait with winds of just under 100 km/h expected to whip through the channel after lunch.

Last nights flights in and out of Dunedin Airport were delayed and cancelled due to high winds.

Northern New Zealand will today remain unscathed by the ferocious conditions today with balmy temperatures in the 20s.

Today's forecast

Auckland: Morning cloud, then fine. Northwesterly winds. 20C
Hamilton:Cloudy, evening showers. Northwesterly winds. 19C
Tauranga:Morning cloud becoming fine. Northwesterly winds. 21C
Wellington:Rain, gales.15C
Christchurch:Cloudy, strong northwesterlies. 23C
Dunedin:Fine, apart from brief morning rain. Strong gusty winds in morning. 21C

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