23 May 2009

Storm stops Cook Strait ferries, snow closes Desert Road

9:50 pm on 23 May 2009

A storm moving up the country on Saturday has left a trail of slips, downed power poles and trees, and disrupted travel plans.

Wellington airport was struck by wind gusts of up to 100km/h and the police advised motorists to avoid the capital's south coast because heavy seas were washing debris onto the roads.

The bad weather also kept the Cook Strait ferries stuck on both sides of the strait, with all sailings cancelled for at least 24 hours because of huge swells. About 700 passengers were held up.

Desert Road closed between Waiouru and Rangipo

Meanwhile, the Desert Road between Waiouru and Rangipo in the central North Island was shut shortly before 7pm. Between 10 and 20 cm of snow was forecast to fall on the road on Saturday night.

The alternative route via State Highway 4 between Waiouru and Ohakune is still open but the police are advising motorists to be cautious.

Metservice says the storm front will hit parts of Hawke's Bay and Gisborne on Sunday.

Two houses evacuated after slip

There have been slips in Canterbury, including one in which about 100 cubic metres of earth fell from an area called the Spur onto the main road in the suburb of Sumner, causing two houses to be evacuated.

It isn't expected to be cleared for several days but there has been little disruption to traffic.

The city council's transport and greenspace manager, Alan Beuzenberg, says the cliff area may need to be stabilised before the slip is cleared.