Wild weather batters central NZ

Wild weather that caused havoc in southern and central New Zealand yesterday is working its way up the country with the promise of gales and possible thunderstorms.

Strong winds are battering the capital, disrupting travel by land, sea and air.

MetService has a strong wind warning in place for Wellington, where northwest gales are gusting 130km/h in exposed places.

Parts of Lower Hutt are flooded after what the Hutt City Council said had been a wild night of heavy rain and strong winds.

Block Rd and the Riverbank car park are closed because of surface flooding.

Harcourt Werry Drive is flooded, but remains open.

Motorists are being advised to drive with extreme care.The Rimutaka Hill Rd was closed for a few hours overnight because of the wind. It is open this morning, but the New Zealand Transport Agency is asking high-sided vehicles and motorcyclists to take particular care.

Roofing became loose on the Spark Central building, closing the central city's Boulcott St.

Two flights, one to Hamilton and one to Christchurch, have been cancelled this morning, and others delayed.

MetLink says this morning's ferry and bus services will be affected.

High winds forced trolley buses off the roads with shuttles taking passengers between Seatoun, Miramar and a section of Rongotai Rd.

A slip has partially blocked SH2 into Wellington south of the Kaitoke Loop Rd.

Further north, a strong wind warning had been issued to travellers using the Desert Rd.

Heavy rain and wind warnings have been issued for much of central New Zealand, after western areas were drenched yesterday.

Lightning was spotted in the Tasman last night and MetService said "rumbles of thunder" were likely in the North Island today.

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

Strong damaging winds are also expected to barrel through eastern regions of both islands.

The winds are expected to gust up to 130km/h in Wellington and the top of the South Island until mid-morning, while gusts up to 120km/h could buffet Hawke's Bay.

MetService warned wind could damage trees, powerlines and unsecured structures and make driving hazardous. The warm, windy and wet conditions come from a strong, moist northwest flow spreading north over the country.

It will bring periods of heavy rain to Mt Taranaki with possible thunderstorms and downfalls up to 20mm per hour.

In the Tararua Ranges, up to 220mm of rain could accumulate over yesterday and today, and thunderstorms are expected.

Thunder and heavy rain would also hit Buller and the Nelson ranges until this evening. Up to 220mm of rain is expected about the ranges and up to 130mm nearer the coast.

MetService said there was a moderate risk of thunderstorms from Waitomo through to Wellington late this morning. The storms would move east over the lower North Island in the afternoon. There was a small possibility of thunderstorms up to Northland by the evening.

Yesterday, warm air from Australia caused a spike in New Zealand temperatures. Christchurch hit 25C and Hastings soared to a 27C high.

Northern New Zealand saw mild weather and temperatures in the 20s.

But the humid air brought heavy rain in the west, and strong winds gave central and southern New Zealand a battering.

A woman was seriously injured after a tree came down across her car in Christchurch and a truck rolled in high winds on the Lewis Pass, leaving its trailer dangling over a bridge.

A large slip came down across a central Wellington city road and fierce thunderstorms marched up the South Island, which had 10,000 lightning strikes in just two hours.

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