High winds cause disruption

Central Otago was buffeted by severe southwesterly winds yesterday, closing skifields, fanning fires, knocking down trees and powerlines and freeing a houseboat from its moorings on Lake Wanaka.

The houseboat Lady Pembroke is towed back to its moorings on Lake Wanaka by a jet-boat skippered...
The houseboat Lady Pembroke is towed back to its moorings on Lake Wanaka by a jet-boat skippered by Lakeland Wanaka's Michael Donald yesterday. PHOTOS: AMANDA GRANT/MARK PRICE
Lakeland Wanaka operations manager Michael Donald and office manager Amanda Grant said they noticed the houseboat drifting, from the window of their lakefront log cabin, about 1.30pm.

Ms Grant said by the time they had driven their truck around to the marina, launched their jet-boat and reached the houseboat, it had travelled 100m and had "touched the beach".

"This is how fast the winds were. If we hadn't been there, they would have lost the boat."

Ms Grant said it was no easy task using a small boat to tow one of the biggest boats on the lake in high winds, and it took nearly an hour before the boat was tied to its moorings.

She said they had sent messages to the owner of the houseboat but had not had a reply.

Queenstown Lakes District Council harbourmaster Marty Black said no other incidents were reported but advised owners of boats at the marina to check their moorings.

In other parts of Central Otago fire crews were kept busy.

The first callout was attended by two helicopters, which helped extinguish a fire on Pisa Range at dawn yesterday.

Alexandra, Dunstan and Clyde fire crews were later called to a vegetation fire on Clyde-Alexandra Rd, near Airport Rd, where a hedge was on fire.

Roxburgh, Millers Flat, Dunstan and Alexandra crews also attended a fire in Ladysmith Rd, Roxburgh East, where pine trees and a shed caught fire.

The Alexandra crew was called to a further incident about noon, following reports of a phone cable being down on Kenmare St, Alexandra.

MetService meteorologist Angus Hines said the strongest wind gust in Central Otago was 87kmh, recorded at Alexandra Airport, between 11am and noon.

Gusts were slightly stronger at Moeraki, which was hit with 100kmh winds between 1pm and 2pm.

The strongest reported wind gust was 115kmh in the far southwest corner of Fiordland, which had no impact on people, Mr Hines said.

Wanaka had a gust of 63kmh.

Fire and Emergency NZ Southern Communications Centre shift manager Andrew Norris said it was a timely reminder for people to be extra careful.

Lady Pembroke tied up safely at the jetty.
Lady Pembroke tied up safely at the jetty.
He urged anyone who had lit a fire over the past week to keep monitoring it to make sure wind did not ignite any deep-seated embers.

Yesterday's windy period also caused disruptions on some of the region's skifields.

Coronet Peak ski area near Queenstown was closed because strong northwesterly winds affected the operation of its chairlifts.

Its sister skifield across the Wakatipu Basin, The Remarkables, also reported strong winds throughout the day but remained open.

Both Treble Cone and Cardrona skifields were closed.

Cardrona Alpine Resort Cardrona's general manager Bridget Legnavsky said the resort was on hold until 8am but was closed due to consistent wind gusts of up to 100km, which continued for much of the day.

She said the weather forecast was for snow tonight, so they were hoped to be open in the morning with good skiing conditions.

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