15 Oct 2013

State of emergency declared in Whanganui

10:07 pm on 15 October 2013

A state of local emergency has been declared in Whanganui and 160 properties have been evacuated due to the threat of the river breaking its stopbanks.

The weather bomb which has been battering the country since early Monday has caused flooding and road damage in the Ruapehu district and a close eye is being kept on the Whanganui and Whangaehu rivers. MetService is predicting more showers and strong winds on Tuesday night.

The Manawatu Wanganui regional council says the Whanganui River was expected to go over the stopbanks at Pipiriki at 7.45pm at a level of nearly 15 metres. The lower river at Wanganui was expected to peak at 8.5 metres about 1am.

Whanganui mayor Annette Main says about 110 residential homes and 50 commercial properties have been evacuated on Anzac Parade near Kowhai Park and at Putiki. She says things are starting to look reasonably serious, but they are receiving good help.

Ms Main says the last time the river reached these levels was in 1990 and at that time some houses were flooded. A Civil Defence Centre has been set up at St Paul's Hall on Cooks Street.

Army personnel have been deployed to assist with maintenance of stop banks and sandbagging in Whanganui overnight. Temporary flood barriers have been erected at the Wanganui Sailing Club Q-West Boat Builders at Balgownie.

People who are wanting to see the rising river levels need to careful, Ms Main says.

"I understand why people would want to see what's actually happening in their town and I would just say 'stay safe, keep well back from the river'," she says.

"What we don't want is to lose anybody during this event, that's what all of our work is based around, the risk to life and the risk to property."

Police and military patrols will be operating overnight and members of the public are asked to keep away from flood affected areas.

Evacuation is also possible for residents beside the Whangaehu River, which is expected to peak at 10 metres about 11pm. The Rangitikei District Council is contacting potentially affected residents.

Six Ohakune residents left their homes on the Mangawhero River Terrace extension earlier on Tuesday.

The Manawatu Wanganui regional council and the Wanganui, Rangitikei and Ruapehu district councils have activated their emergency operations centres.

Ruapehu District Council communications manager Paul Wheatcroft says schools closed early and people are being told not to travel unless absolutely essential.

Flooding at Ohakune on Tuesday.

Flooding at Ohakune on Tuesday. Photo: SUPPLIED

Roads affected nationwide

The bad weather closed roads nationwide but easing wind and rain meant some could reopen through the day.

The Transport Agency says State Highway 3 near Mount Messenger in North Taranaki and State Highway 4 near Wanganui reopened on Tuesday.

State Highway 43 between Stratford and Taumarunui remains closed, and may not open until Wednesday morning. State Highway 54 between Feilding and Hunterville is also still closed.

The agency says there will be slips and debris on other roads.

In the South Island, some roads on the West Coast have been closed indefinitely because of landslips, and the road from Te Anau to Milford has been shut because of snow. The stretch of road between the Hanmer turnoff and Springs Junction is closed because of flooding.

Power still out for some

In the lower North Island, Powerco says all but about 700 customers, mainly in Wairarapa, have been reconnected after the storm, but some won't have power overnight on Tuesday.

A total of 21,000 thousand properties in Wairarapa, Manawatu, Whanganui and South Taranaki lost power.

Lines company Vector says power has been restored to all customers in the Auckland region.

High winds hit Auckland

The wild wind lifted roofs and forced flight cancellations in Auckland on Tuesday. Two international flights from Singapore and Sydney were diverted to Christchurch and Wellington. Altogether, 28 domestic flights were cancelled and 20 delayed.

Glass was blown over the forecourt of the Rydges Hotel.

Glass was blown over the forecourt of the Rydges Hotel. Photo: RNZ

Firefighters were run off their feet attending 51 incidents in the city since 11am, including fallen trees, loose roofs and panels lifting on buildings. Several panes of glass have blown out over the forecourt of Rydges Hotel in the centre of the city. Smashed glass littered the ground outside the hotel's entrance but no one was injured.

Ferry company Fullers says the commuter ferry to Northcote Point is closed until further notice because of the wind.

MetService forecaster Ian Gall says winds of about 100km/h were recorded on the Harbour Bridge and up to 95km/h around Auckland airport.

Public transport back to normal in capital

Calm has returned to Wellington, where the regional council says public transport should run as normal as Tuesday, although Wairarapa rail services have been replaced by buses because of fallen trees on the line.

Meanwhile, flights have resumed at Wellington airport on Tuesday, but Air New Zealand says it has a backlog of 8000 passengers from the cancellation of flights on Monday.

The Wellington City Council is investigating why three floors of scaffolding collapsed at a building site in Willis Street which remains closed to traffic. No one was hurt.

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment's health and safety group has also launched an investigation. The council says contractors had braced the scaffolding earlier in the day in anticipation of high winds. It says it will help with the investigation.

MetService forecaster Dan Corbett told Morning Report gusts of up to 160 km/h recorded on Wellington hills were ugly and intense.