High winds batter South Island

Strong winds are wreaking havoc in the South Island, leaving emergency services inundated with wind-related calls.

Shortly after 4pm, the fire service had 35 jobs on the go in the South Island, involving 80 fire trucks.

The flood of calls from Southland and Otago was starting to ease, while more were coming from the Mackenzie country, South Canterbury, Canterbury and Ashburton.

High winds toppled trees and downed power lines in Otago, resulting in power cuts in several parts of the region.

There has also been damage to property, with at least one shed being blown over by the winds.

Senior Sergeant Craig Dinnissen, of Dunedin, said large dust storms were believed to be the cause of a crash on State Highway 85 in Ranfurly, in which a milk tanker and truck collided.

A man with a suspected broken wrist or arm was tended to by emergency staff, he said.

The road was closed after the accident and there were warnings in place for other roads in the region due to strong winds.

An inbound flight to Dunedin from Christchurch had to turn back because of weather conditions, the airline's communications manager Brigitte Ransom said.

Gusts as strong as 170 kmh are battering the mainland and fire spokesman Riwai Grace said firefighters were "under the pump" from late morning, as calls flooded in.

"It's everything from vehicles overturning to rubbish fires spreading and burning out of control to power lines down and phone lines down. It's a bit of everything because the winds are picking up quickly now."

The car that overturned was between Twizel and Tekapo.

"Because the wind gusts are just so extreme sometimes, it's luck of the draw," Mr Grace said.

Between 10am and 11am, the Mid Dome weather station, 1200 metres above sea level near Lumsden in Southland, was hit with a 174 kmh gust.

Earlier this morning Mt Hutt recorded 100 kmh blasts.

In populated areas, Gore has recorded 122 kmh and Twizel 115 kmh early this afternoon.

On the coast, Oamaru got a 94 kmh blast.

"Peak winds in the Mid-Canterbury area should be done by about five o'clock this evening [but] it will still be strong and gusty," MetService meteorologist Rob Kerr said.

A northwest flow is bringing the winds. It's moving up New Zealand today ahead of a cold front, which will bring cooler temperatures and a slight easing to the gusts.

MetService has a severe weather warning in place for potentially damaging winds in Southland, Otago, Canterbury, Marlborough, Wellington, Wairarapa and Hawke's Bay.

It could also be strong in Fiordland, Westland, Buller, Nelson, Horowhenua-Kapiti, Manawatu, Whanganui, Taihape and Gisborne.

In the North Island, the usually windy Cape Turnagain received 140 km/h gusts this morning.

The north of the North Island will be spared the high winds.

- Additional reporting from NZME.




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