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North Island gales, West Coast floods as stormy weather hits

Extensive coverage of today’s stormy weather A farmer was plucked from floodwaters on the West Coast, flights were grounded in Wellington and recycling bins shared their wares in Waitakere as wind and rain lashed the country today.

Wellington bore the brunt of the wind, with a gust of 130km/h recorded in suburban Kelburn about midday.

The wind had built to that overnight but quickly died down after hitting the 130km/h peak.

Before that, however, some flights were unable to land at Wellington airport and others could not take off.

Police said the wind had caused “nothing major” in the capital but in Greytown, in Wairarapa, an elderly couple were hospitalised with broken bones after a large branch landed on them.

The bad weather manifested as rain on the West Coast, where emergency services plucked an elderly farmer from the water this morning.

Inspector Lindsay Turner said the 70-year-old was trying to rescue a sheep which was stuck at Coal Creek, near Greymouth, but had to be rescued himself.

“He was very lucky – we were quite handy to it,” Mr Turner told APNZ.

“Police staff assisted with rescuing him and he’s safe and well.”

At Totara Flat, also on the West Coast, flooding was described as the worst in 20 years.

Carl Hannah had to enlist the help of a helicopter to rescue his cattle, which he had moved to higher ground three times yesterday.

“I’ve never seen it so bad as this on this farm.

“It’s over the top of fenceposts in a lot of places.”

Ahaura Helicopters’ pilot Heath Bagnall had been out since 8am to try to save cattle on about 15 farms. He estimated he had moved about 500 cattle in a combination of lifting and shepherding them with the helicopter.

“It’s the worst that’s been seen in 20 years.”

James Rogataski, who works his parents’ sheep farm in the upper Ahaura/Kopara area, said the flooding was the highest he had seen in 25 years.

“We’ve lost stock … we had them on higher ground early on, but that’s now under water. It’s not good, and we know we’ve lost a number of sheep.” head weather analyst Philip Duncan said winds were also whipping Auckland, although they were nowhere near the strength of Wellington.

However, Auckland was not as used to it as the capital, “where trees grow on an angle”. In Auckland, trees grew straight and therefore twigs and branches snapped more easily when winds did hit, creating more debris.

In Waitakere it was plastic and paper creating debris, as recycling bins were upended and their contents scattered by the wind.

Gusts of 80-90km/h were recorded on the Auckland Harbour Bridge, making driving difficult for buses and trucks but not causing any major problems.

The wind was expected to die down across most of the country by tonight, and tomorrow would give a bit of breathing space before another “big windy blast” would start building on Wednesday and would hit on Thursday and Friday.

And it might pay to batten down the hatches this time – it’s expected to be worse than today.

“This is spring,” Mr Duncan said.

“It’s running late this year.

“From Stewart Island to the Far North, this very strong south west blast will make for a very windy end to the week.”

And the bad news is it’s expected to last until Christmas.



sw on 21/11/2011 7:30am

Classic el nino weather,may disagree with a certain reader down south on here though.

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