Recovery, reflection after wild weather

Workers inspect a fallen tree on Speargrass Flat Rd in Arrowtown. Photo: Daisy Hudson
Workers inspect a fallen tree on Speargrass Flat Rd in Arrowtown. Photo: Daisy Hudson
Reports emerged yesterday of dramatic near misses across Queenstown and Central Otago from Wednesday evening's wild weather and high winds.

Several people narrowly avoided injury from toppling trees.

As wind speeds peaked at 105kmh in Queenstown, some residents had a lucky escape.

Queenstown Lakes district councillor Scott Stevens said it was a "godsend" nobody was hurt as a 15m tree fell and crushed his truck, narrowly missing him and another motorist.

Cr Stevens stopped to get out of his truck on the McChesney Bridge in Arthurs Point after seeing another driver pull over to clear fallen branches from the road, which he said looked "bloody dangerous".

"I looked up to see a pretty big poplar tree had snapped and came pirouetting towards us.

"I yelled `run' and we both bolted in the nick of time.

"It fell on my truck, causing pretty extensive damage."

He said his heart "jumped an extra couple of beats" as the tree fell and his instincts "saved the lives" of him and the other man.

Similar problems were later reported in the Hawea area.

The strong southerly broke some trees on the Lake Wanaka foreshore. Photo: Sean Nugent
The strong southerly broke some trees on the Lake Wanaka foreshore. Photo: Sean Nugent
An uninjured Lake Hawea family said they were "very lucky" a large pine tree that fell across their property did not land on their house.

Jess Clark was at her Grandview Rd home with her four children when a strong southerly wind blew a huge pine tree neighbouring her property over and into her backyard, about 6.30pm.

Only the tip hit the Clark home, damaging the guttering.

Mrs Clark said she had been outside on the other side of the property gathering a pair of shoes that had blown away when it fell.

"I heard a thump ... my first thought was to make sure that we were all OK.

"We had so many neighbours come over to check that we were OK ... you just feel really grateful to be living in such a great neighbourhood."

Firefighters were called to the scene to assess the damage and told Mrs Clark there was no danger of the tree resting on the house.

"They said it's not going anywhere ... they didn't need to cut anything down."

The tree would be removed with the help of the Queenstown Lakes District Council.

The Central Otago District Council closed Earnsleugh Rd, near Alexandra, on Wednesday night after trees and powerlines fell there and in Chapman Rd.

Aurora Energy head of external relations Gary Johnson said as of last night 16 homes and businesses were without power. At the peak on Wednesday the number of 4500.

Glenorchy township was expected to be back on network supply last night once repairs were made. Crews also worked to restore power to 140 customers in nearby areas.

Queenstown Lakes district councillor Scott Stevens' truck took a pounding. Photo: Supplied
Queenstown Lakes district councillor Scott Stevens' truck took a pounding. Photo: Supplied
Glenorchy Hotel owner Tim Brownie said the community was frustrated by the power cuts and the generator did not cover large parts of the area.

"It's a serious joke. The community's just had enough."

He also hit out at communication about the storm, saying he had six people sleeping on the hotel floor after getting stuck there.

About 50 vehicles were stuck on the Glenorchy-Queenstown Rd, after trees and powerlines fell, blocking it.

A Fire and Emergency New Zealand spokesman said after initial reports of a power line on fire at Glenda Dr in Frankton, firefighters arrived to find 11 power lines had fallen on buildings there.

He said eight people were trapped inside the Kennards Hire building for nearly 45 minutes, before they could leave safely.

Lake Hawea homeowner Jess Clark and daughter Stella (3) are counting her blessings after a large...
Lake Hawea homeowner Jess Clark and daughter Stella (3) are counting her blessings after a large pine tree narrowly avoided crushing part of their house on Wednesday evening. PHOTO: SEAN NUGENT
QLDC said staff worked hard to deal with the "aftermath of some pretty scary conditions".

It also put up warning tape and signs in Jardine Park, Kelvin Heights, following the storm and asked people to stay out of the area.

Several trees were damaged and the council was "assessing options" to deal with the issue.

The weather also disrupted flights in and out of Queenstown Airport, leading to three cancellations.

While a bane for most, the weather was a blessing for some.

Eager surfers did not let the conditions get them down and headed straight to Lake Wakatipu, near Fernhill, to ride some rare waves.

The group of surfers was filmed taking to the choppy waters by Queenstown resident Lydia Clarke, who said the wind provided the group with "the good stuff".

Surfer Jalan Heaton (20), of Queenstown, said he knew the waves were going to be big and "boosted down there" with some friends.

"It was gnarly. I had one set that came up to my chest."


 

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