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In Southland the high wind gust on Wednesday morning was 240kmh at Mid Dome, between Lumsden and Athol. Otago's highest gust reached 115kmh at Swampy Summit (Dunedin).
MetService meteorologist April Clark said any winds above 118kmh were considered similar to the strength of hurricane winds.
The severe gales were caused by a front moving over the lower South Island from the Tasman Sea.
They were strongest in exposed parts of central Southland and coastal Otago, and caused damage to trees, powerlines and unsecured structures.
She said MetService weather stations also recorded wind gusts up to 107kmh in Gore, 96kmh at Nugget Point, and 91kmh in Invercargill.
The gales had eased by day break yesterday, but Ms Clark recommended residents make the most of the calm conditions because more gales and wind were forecast for this weekend.
''The weather is changeable at this time of year.
''Looking towards the weekend, it does look like a low is headed towards us.''