Heavy rain, winds for South

The South is set to take another battering today as an active front brings heavy rain and winds gusting up to 140kmh.

Otago Civil Defence and Emergency Management has urged people across Otago and Southland to be prepared for possible power cuts and fallen trees, and the New Zealand Transport Agency has also advised southern motorists to check weather and road conditions before travelling.

NZTA said due to the heavy rain warning, State Highway 6 (Harihari to Whataroa) would be closed from 9pm today and was expected to reopen at 7am on Sunday.

"With heavy rain and severe nor-west gales forecast for much of the South Island over the weekend, Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency is advising motorists to check weather and road conditions before travelling, and plan their journey accordingly.

"Following storms and slips in December, SH6 south of Hokitika through to the Haast Pass has had single lanes and traffic management in several places."

A MetService spokesman said strong wind warnings were in place for Fiordland, Southland and Clutha from 7am to 6pm, and the Southern Lakes between 10am and 8pm.

Gusts of up to 120kmh were expected in exposed parts of Southland, Clutha and the Southern Lakes, and gusts up to 140kmh were possible in Fiordland.

‘‘Strong wind gusts could damage trees, power lines and unsecured structures. Driving may be hazardous, especially for high-sided vehicles and motorcycles.’’

The spokesman said a heavy rain warning was in place for the headwaters of Otago lakes and rivers, where 70mm-100mm was expected to accumulate about the divide, and 50mm-80mm within 15km of the divide.

Peak intensities of 20mm-30mm were possible about the divide.

The warning is in place from 4pm on Saturday until 1am on Sunday.

About 80mm-120mm was expected to accumulate in the Fiordland area between 1pm and 8pm today, and could peak at 20mm-35mm per hour, he said.

‘‘Heavy rain may cause streams and rivers to rise rapidly. Surface flooding and slips are also possible and driving conditions may be hazardous.’’

The worst of the weather was expected to miss Dunedin, but a strong wind watch was in place for North Otago, Central Otago and Dunedin, where northwest winds could approach severe gales in exposed places from 10am to 8pm.

The spokesman said the front was expected to weaken as it moved over the remainder of the South Island on Sunday.

On Monday, a large ridge of high pressure was expected to establish itself over New Zealand and would remain slow-moving on Tuesday, bringing settled weather, he said.

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