Power restored to some homes around Canterbury

Photo: RNZ / Nate McKinnon
Photo: RNZ / Nate McKinnon
More than 1000 homes in Canterbury are without power after a stormy night for the region.

MetService says the front, which brought winds of over 200km/h to some locations, may still bring damage and disruption as it heads into the North Island.

Orion Energy earlier reported outages in Springfield, Sheffield, Whitecliffs and Whindwhistle suburbs.

But power has now been restored to more than 400 mid-Canterbury homes and it's hoped the rest will have their power back on by the end of the day.

Orion said just over 600 homes are still without power, in the areas around Darfield, Sheffield, Springfield and Coalgate.

Meanwhile, lightning strikes started a forest fire in Berwick Forest south of Dunedin. Crews are monitoring the site and a helicopter will be deployed later this morning to help extinguish the blaze.

A number of fires that had been burning on Friday also flared up due to the wind, but crews were able to put them out.

Winds of over 200km/h were recorded in some parts of the the region overnight.

Chief executive of Electricity Ashburton Networks Roger Sutton told Morning Report the latest storm wasn't as bad as last week's, but that the damage was still being assessed.

"On my network we've probably got probably less than 100 customers without power at the moment. So that's not as bad as last week. But across wider Canterbury it's more like 1000 or 1500."

Damage mostly involved fallen trees bringing electricity lines down and Sutton said extra staff had been drafted into help fix these.

"We'll work really hard to get our 100 customers back on today, but of them won't be so easy to fix. Some of these might go through plantation forestry where a large number of trees will need to be removed.

"We have extra people in hotels overnight in Christchurch ready to get up and help us, but it depends on the level of the damage and how complex some of the jobs are."

Sutton said preparing for more frequent storm events in light of climate change would involve using stronger, more robust materials and alerting farmers about the need to cut down or trim trees around infrastructure.

"You build the network stronger - you put in stronger poles, wire, stronger conductors. But also you do the stuff that isn't so exciting," he said.

"You go and talk to farmers and you negotiate with them about trimming and cutting trees down that are close to lines. It's a combination of hardware, talking to costumers, and there's also stuff like the software - having a computer system that knows where the outages are, and sends people there efficiently.

"There's a whole range of things to do, but certainly is an issue for the industry and we need to continue to invest to try and keep the lights on.

"But it's more than engineering. It's also working with people as well."

State Highway 77 by Wightmans Road in Canterbury was closed this morning due to fallen trees.

A detour was in place for cars but there is no suitable alternative for heavy vehicles.

Waka Kotahi is warning people in a lighter or high-sided vehicle, or riding a motorcycle, across the Desert Rd this morning to take care, due to strong winds.

A strong winds warning is in place from Waiouru to Rangipo.

Earlier, Mid-Canterbury David Clark told Morning Report his property still had power and this morning's damage wasn't as bad as expected. He said irrigators on the property were moved to face the wind, so these didn't blow over.

"We've got through relatively unscathed this morning. We've lost a few young trees, which is really disappointing, but key for us is the irrigators are all still standing," he said.

Others weren't as lucky, with reports of irrigators toppling over across farms yesterday afternoon, he said.

A MetService red warning for the region expired at 6am.

MetService forecaster Lewis Ferris spoke said the front still had potential to cause destruction as it moved northwards. It hit Buller early this morning and is expected to reach Auckland by tomorrow early afternoon.

"It is still active in terms of lightening and in the last two hours we've seen just under 5000 strikes and overnight that got up to 10,000 strikes in a two-hour period," he said.

"I guess the good news is as it moves further north we are going to start to see those winds drop back.

"The winds are still very strong around the Canterbury plains and into Christchurch, so it will still be a good morning to be vigilant."

Rainfall on the West Coast has been heavy and extended into Canterbury.

The highest gust yesterday was recorded at Lamb Hill weather station, 25km northwest of Dunedin, at 211km/h.

"We didn't see wind gusts of 211km/h all across Otago, but we did see a gust at another high station in the Canterbury high country that got up over 200km/h. So the big winds were there and that wind did extend down to the Canterbury plains," Ferris said.

A number of flights across the country have been cancelled this morning due to strong winds.

Flights in and out of Queenstown, Dunedin, Christchurch and Wellington airports have been affected and passengers should check if their travel plans have been disrupted.












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