The Rimutaka Hill Rd has closed, parliament’s weekly Cabinet meeting is at risk, flights have been cancelled and power has been cut to more than 1000 properties as gale-force winds lash the centre and south of the country.
Winds have been gusting over 140km/h in Wellington and up to 200km/h on Mt Hutt.
The stormy weather is slowly heading north.
A Wellington Airport spokeswoman said most regional flights had been suspended this morning, but some main trunk routes were still in operation.
Passengers were advised to check Wellington Airport’s website or that of their airlines.
International flights had not yet been affected by the weather, the spokeswoman said.
“The weather will be monitored throughout the day but we’re not sure of when it is expected to ease.”
Air New Zealand spokeswoman Emma Field said strong winds in Wellington caused the cancellation of more than 19 return services.
Passengers were advised to consult the arrivals and departures page on the Air New Zealand website or call the contact centre on 0800 737 000.
The wind in Wellington has also put the weekly Cabinet meeting at risk as the flight cancellations prevented many ministers making it to Wellington.
Prime Minister John Key’s flight to Wellington this morning was called off and minister Steven Joyce was diverted to Christchurch.
Mr Joyce tweeted he was now flying to Palmerston North and driving to Wellington. Cabinet has been delayed until 2pm, but could be cancelled altogether if the flight disruptions continue.
Police say because of the dangers posed to traffic the decision has been made to close the Rimutaka Hill Road, SH2, until further notice
SH2 north of Masterton, specifically the Mt Bruce area remains open but motorists on bikes or in high sided vehicles are warned against travelling this road due to the conditions
Wellington police Acting Inspector Bruce Mackay said due to the high winds across the Wairarapa region, motorists were advised to drive only when absolutely necessary.
The wind had caused a truck to blow over just before 10am near the Mt Bruce wildlife sanctuary, north of Masterton, however the driver was not injured, he said.
“It’s going to require a crane and we’ve got to make a decision whether it’s a sensible decision to try that today.
“Bearing in mind it blew over in the first place, trying to lift it with a crane might not be an option.”
A large tree has also come down onto State Highway 2 near Tauherenikau, south of Masterton.
Contractors were clearing the area but drivers were advised to expect delays.
Further south, Southern fire communications spokesman Mau Barbara said they had received 40 calls for weather-related incidents in the past 12 hours.
“Plus around about 14 calls to fires that had been caused because of weather-related incidents.
“We’ve had tiles lifting, roofs lifting, we had a roller door rolling down the road.
“This has been in the Geraldine, Oxford area – it’s quite a wide area. It hasn’t hit Christchurch as such.”
Winds had subsided in Canterbury as the bout of wild weather moved north towards Wellington, Mr Barbara said.
The fires had been caused by powerlines toppling over onto trees, he said.
“No one’s been injured as far as I know. We’ve had a tree on a caravan, but everyone got out okay.
Canterbury lines company Orion has reported that 1365 customers are without power due to lines faults and trees bringing down power lines.
The majority of affected customers were expected to have power restored by 6pm.
The bad weather has also delayed the arrival of Canterbury’s first major cruise ship of the summer season.
Tomorrow’s scheduled arrival of the Sea Princess into Akaroa Harbour has been delayed until 6am on Wednesday.
Quieter weather is expected tomorrow.
– APNZ with WeatherWatch.co.nz
on 14/10/2013 1:52am
Why is the wind predicted to be less savage for the northern half of th North Island?
on 14/10/2013 2:03am
Hi there, good question! Basically the low that is generating this wind is too far south. The centre of the low is the area that generates energy to help create the winds and it;’s not moving closer – if anything it’s moving further east and taking the worst of the winds out east of NZ with it. Also, we have a big high pressure system just north of northern NZ and while this also adds to the strong winds in central NZ further north it acts more like a lid, limiting how far north the worst of the winds (and rain) can go. Also, northern centres like Auckland and Whangarei are much further west than say Wellington – and the worst of the winds are currently from Wellington eastwards.
on 14/10/2013 1:36am
Good job,hopefully it will blow them all away.