Storm takes aim at South Island

Winds are picking up in Wellington this evening and heavy rain is falling in the Nelson ranges as ex-tropical cyclone Lusi moves down the country.

Gusts of up to 130km/h are expected in Wellington overnight, and severe weather warnings are in place for gales and heavy rain in parts of the South Island and lower North Island.

MetService forecaster Elke Louw said winds were picking up in the capital, with gusts at the airport reaching 60km/h.

Winds was expected to keep increasing this evening, with gusts of up to 130km/h forecast in exposed places, including the Rimutaka Hill Rd.

Heavy rain was falling in the Nelson ranges, with some areas receiving 200mm since this morning.

Reports of high winds were also coming in from south Taranaki this afternoon, Ms Louw said.

A severe weather warning is in place for severe northwest gales in Wellington, Wairarapa and the Marlborough Sounds from 6pm today to 4am tomorrow.

A warning is also in place for heavy rain in Nelson, Marlborough, Buller, South Canterbury, North Otago and Tararua ranges.

"Unfortunately the worst is still to come for Wellington, South Wairarapa and Marlborough Sounds regions," Ms Louw said.

Ms Louw said Christchurch may receive a further 10mm of rain before conditions begin to clear tonight.

But the city has missed the worst of the storm, with the centre of the low passing north of the city.

High winds did cause some power outages, with power cut to more than 1500 households early this morning, and was expected to be restored by 6pm.

A further 107 households in the Diamond Harbour area were also without power.

But mayor Lianne Dalziel said there had been few significant issues in the city, and the agencies on standby to respond to flooding would be stood down.

"We would have been ready to respond to heavy rainfall and flooding, but, thankfully, there has not, so far, been any need. However they are on standby should anything develop," Ms Dalziel said.

In the north, the cleanup was underway today after the storm brought winds of up to 140km/h at Cape Reinga, and high swells along the east coast.

Northland's regional harbourmaster reported several boats had come ashore at Houhora, Mangonui, and Paihia.

State Highway 11 was closed last night as strong winds swept high tides across a section of the highway between Kawakawa and Paihia.

Strong easterly winds gusting to 120km/h blew a shed through power lines at Whangarei Heads overnight on Saturday, cutting power to 2000 homes, a Northpower spokesman said.

A rockfall also blocked part of the Hibiscus Coast Highway at Waiwera on Saturday morning.

In Auckland, Civil Defence said there had been some minor flooding incidents and contractors had been working to clear fallen branches and trees during the night on Saturday and Sunday morning.

But concerns 50 homes on northeastern beaches may be inundated by storm surges was unfounded, as the swell subsided before high tide, Auckland Civil Defence controller Clive Manley said. The homeowners were warned but none needed to evacuate.

In Bay of Plenty, motorists are asked to take care today on state highways 30, 33 and 34 where contractors are removing trees bought down by strong winds.

Bay of Plenty Civil Defence Emergency Management group controller Clinton Naude said the region had suffered minor stormwater flooding, downed trees and wind damage, but no significant problems.

The highest rainfall levels were 84mm in Tauranga, with wind gusts peaking at 90km/h.

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