20 Mar 2012

Storm leaves thousands without power overnight

10:00 pm on 20 March 2012

Energy companies warned on Tuesday evening that thousands of customers across the central North Island would be without power overnight.

More than 2500 homes and businesses in Taranaki and about 500 around Taupo and Rotorua were still affected by the outage caused by gale-force winds on Tuesday.

The lines company Unison said crews in Taupo and Bay of Plenty had been stood down for the night and would continue work at first light on Wednesday.

Powerco said its crews in Taranaki would work through the night, but it is unlikely many more clients would have their power back on before the morning.

The stormy weather has been moving down the country, after soaking Northland in a major deluge on Monday. MetService says another blast of heavy rain and strong winds is forecast to hit the east of the North Island on Wednesday afternoon.

Taranaki gets a battering

South-easterly winds gusting up to 120km/h battered Taranaki for much of Tuesday, sparking many emergency callouts. The Fire Service's Taranaki area manager, Pat Fitzell, said it had been full-on since 6am.

Schools were closed, flights in and out of New Plymouth cancelled and highways made treacherous by the wind.

Bell Block resident Lynden Watts says it was the scariest moment of his life to see his roof fly away in the strong winds. Eight occupants of the house had to be evacuated.

Earlier, a large truck and a horse float were blown onto their sides. Police had to close a section of State Highway 45 because of the risk of trucks toppling.

Taupo homes, businesses cut off

In the Taupo/Rotorua area, contractors were brought in from Hawke's Bay to help with the reconnection of power to homes and businesses cut off by the storm.

Unison spokesperson Danny Gough says high winds have been frustrating workers' efforts to repair damaged power poles and lines.

Mr Gough says it's recommended that those without power arrange access to a battery-operated radio, a torch, spare batteries and a full gas bottle for their barbecue.