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A wind warning is now in place across the entire South after the threat level was upgraded in parts this morning.
The MetService yesterday issued a warning for severe northwest gales which were expected to gust to 130km/h in exposed places around Fiordland (south of Doubtful Sound), Southland, Stewart Island and Clutha, from 4pm today until 5am tomorrow.
Further north, winds were expected to gust to 140km/h in exposed places in the Canterbury high country, from 9pm tonight until 9am tomorrow.
The MetService says severe northwest gales could gust to 120km/h from 6pm today until 7am tomorrow in Southern Lakes, Central Otago, North Otago and Dunedin.
"Driving may be hazardous, especially for high-sided vehicles and motorcycles," a MetService spokesman said.
He urged residents to secure anything that could be picked up by wind.
Firefighters warned that severe gales also increased the danger of fires.
Fire and Emergency New Zealand asked people to extinguish any burning fires, and not to light any more - including solid fuel barbecues, camp fires, incinerators and hedge trimmings - until conditions had eased.