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Winds gusted up to 130kmh in parts of the South and trees fell on power lines, roofs lifted off houses and trampolines were blown away.
A Fire and Emergency New Zealand spokesman said it was called to 17 wind-related callouts in Southland from about 9am to 1pm on Saturday.
Strong winds caused part of the spire at St Patrick’s Catholic Church in Rimu St, Invercargill, to come loose and the area was cordoned off to protect the public, the spokesman said.
After MetService gale warnings for Southland, Clutha, and Dunedin extensive power cuts hit Southland and parts of Dunedin were also affected.
Strong winds on the Otago Peninsula contributed to a ‘‘major event’’ in Beaconsfield Rd where a large house and nearby trees caught fire, and 28 residents from 14 houses were evacuated to Portobello’s Coronation Hall.
MetService forecaster Tuporo Marsters said that, on Saturday, Dunedin and other southern areas had experienced the ‘‘damaging winds’’ MetService had warned about, linked to a low-pressure system.
The city and the South would experience much calmer conditions this week, starting today, after the departure of the low and the arrival of a high-pressure ridge, Mr Marsters said.
An Aurora Energy spokeswoman said strong winds across the southern region had cut power to some customers in parts of Dunedin and Cromwell on Saturday.
At 1.30pm that day about 700 customers in Green Island, Fairfield and Abbotsford lost power after a tree touched lines. All power was restored by 4.30pm.
“There was also a short outage in the Outram area,’’ she said.
All power was restored by 8pm. Crews had worked in challenging conditions to restore power as quickly and safely as possible, she said.
State Highway 93 from Clinton to Mataura was closed for much of Saturday afternoon after a fallen tree took out powerlines, a NZ Transport Agency alert advised.
PowerNet recorded outages in more than 40 locations including Waihola Edendale, Wyndham, Pukerau, Clinton, Middlemarch, Ngapuna, Papatowai, Conical Hill and Waipahi, many of which were caused by severe weather conditions and trees over power lines.