'Extreme' wind cuts power to more than 4000

More than 4000 homes and businesses have lost power after gusty winds created havoc in the Queenstown Lakes and Central Otago areas and residents have been asked to conserve power to prevent more outages.

It comes just a day after a tree toppled onto a group of people at Shotover Jet, injuring five.

In a statement this evening, Aurora Energy said severe wind gusts and heavy rain caused widespread damage and power cuts in multiple areas across the electricity network in Queenstown Lakes and Central Otago.

The number of homes and businesses without power was earlier estimated at around 4500, but had dropped to 4200 before 9pm

"Aurora Energy’s response crews have been mobilised and are working to repair damage where it is possible and safe to do so.

"While every effort will be made to restore power as quickly as possible, this may take some time.

"We urge electricity customers in Central Otago and Queenstown Lakes to conserve power to lessen the chance of further power outages during the evening peak."

It urged people to treat any downed lines as live and stay "well clear".

Aurora Energy is responding to damage caused to power lines in the following areas:

  • Makarora
  • Glenorchy
  • Glenda Drive, Frankton
  • Kingston Road, Queenstown
  • Lake Hayes
  • Arrowtown
  • Glendhu Bay, Wanaka
  • Camp Hill
  • Hawea Flat

Power has been restored to:

  • Queensberry
  • Clyde.

Emergency services were earlier responding to multiple callouts this evening, with trees, branches and power lines brought down in the Queenstown and in parts of Central Otago.

Police responded to reports of trees and powerlines falling down on the Glenorchy-Queenstown Rd, completely blocking it at Bobs Cove.

A spokeswoman said the driver who reported the fallen trees was unable to turn around, with a large number of cars backing up on the road.

The Queenstown Lakes District Council confirmed trees and powerlines are reportedly down in Arrowtown-Lake Hayes Rd, Hogans Gully Rd and Speargrass Flat Rd, between Hunter Rd and Domain Rd.

That stretch of Speargrass Flat Rd will remain closed overnight.

A Fire and Emergency New Zealand spokesman said there are multiple severe weather events across the Queenstown and Frankton area.

"We are advising people not to travel if they do not have to and be careful on the roads."

Trees down on Speargrass Flat Road, near Queenstown. Photo: Matt Pitt
Trees down on Speargrass Flat Road, near Queenstown. Photo: Matt Pitt

Police are responding to reports of trees and power-lines falling down on the Glenorchy-Queenstown Rd, completely blocking it at Bobs Cove.

Trees and power-lines are reportedly down in Arrowtown-Lake Hayes Rd, Hogans Gully Rd, Domain Rd and Speargrass Flat Rd.

A large fallen tree is currently causing traffic delays on the corner of Church St and Marine Parade in the Queenstown CBD.

A car crash has been reported on Frankton Rd, with tow trucks on their way and one lane was reportedly blocked.

Emergency services are attempting to spread resources to respond to events in all areas with reported incidents. 

A tree down in central Queenstown next to the Louis Vuitton store. Photo: Tu Bull
A tree down in central Queenstown next to the Louis Vuitton store. Photo: Tu Bull

A police media spokeswoman said firefighters were responding to a call to Speargrass Flat Road, where two large trees had reportedly come down and were blocking the road.

"They're two full trees with lots of branches,'' she said.

They were not near any power lines, she said.

Meanwhile, near Alexandra the Central Otago District Council has closed Earnsleugh Road overnight after trees and power lines came down.

The strong winds are also affecting flights in and out of Queenstown. Two flights, from Christchurch and Auckland, have been cancelled, while others are delayed. 

Matt Pitt, of Queenstown, said he was working in the area near Speargrass Flat Rd when the wind "seriously"  picked up at 5pm. 

"It was all of a sudden." 

He and his workmates packed up 10 minutes early and on the way home saw a "massive" tree down over Speargrass Flat Rd.

He said the people in the car stopped in front of them said the tree had just missed their car.

Tree down on Hunter Road. Photo Daisy Hudson
Tree down on Hunter Road. Photo Daisy Hudson

"It's really strong winds, I was really worried about my house back in town because there's a really big tree next to it, and I thought it'd be down. However, it was fine when he got home.

He said it was a nerve wrecking time with the trees around the area at the moment, "especially after what happened yesterday."

Lake Hayes resident, Liam Martin, who has a weather station on the roof of his house said gusts were measuring at 117kmh about 5.10pm, but were now down to 92kmh.

The weather was "extremely windy and raining", he said.

CENTRAL OTAGO

Emergency services and linesmen are attending several sites in the Earnscleugh, near Alexandra, area where trees have fallen in strong winds.

Traffic backed up on Gorge Rd between Queenstown and Arthurs Point. Photo: Supplied
Traffic backed up on Gorge Rd between Queenstown and Arthurs Point. Photo: Supplied

Earnscleugh Road  is closed between Chapman and Conroys Rd because of a tree that has fallen on to power lines, and caution is advised for motorists on Chapman Rd, where teams are also working on fallen trees.

Fire crews and police cars are in attendance.

Police said the windy conditions were making driving dangerous at the present, especially for high-sided vehicles and motorcycles.

Motorists were asked to take extra care while driving and be alert to the changing conditions.

Meanwhile, there has been a power outage in the Millers Flat area.

Crews prepare to clear a tree that has fallen on to power lines in Earnscleugh Rd, near Alexandra...
Crews prepare to clear a tree that has fallen on to power lines in Earnscleugh Rd, near Alexandra. PHOTO: PAM JONES

MetService - 'Hindsight a wonderful thing'

MetService forecaster Andy Downes said Queenstown's strongest official wind gust was recorded at Queenstown Airport at 4.57pm as 105kph. Winds at that time were averaging 80kph. By 6pm the mean wind speed had dropped to 65kph.

He said the Metservice removed a strong wind watch for westerly winds in Central Otago this morning. It then focused on the forecast stronger southerly winds in a front heading for the east of the region.

"Unfortunately they have struck inland as well. Sometimes things happen like that. Hindsight is a wonderful thing."

That there were such sudden, strong winds was to do with the front moving in at the warmest time of the day, dropping temperatures dramatically in front of it - it was 19degC in Queenstown at 4pm and 6degC by 5.30pm - which caused the air pressure to rise rapidly contributing to a surge in the wind.

The relatively short-lived period of exceptionally strong winds hit Alexandra first, where the peak gust of 83kph was measured at Alexandra Airport at 4.30pm, though other, more exposed places, were likely to have experienced stronger wind gusts.

The wind in Wanaka was averaging 57kph and gusting at 76kph at 6pm.

The MetService was keeping an eye on North Otago and Canterbury this evening as the front moved north.

 

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