13 Jul 2017

'Probably the biggest floods we've had here'

11:56 pm on 13 July 2017

There's been widespread flooding, power cuts and some evacuations in the bottom half of the North Island as rain and winds lash the region.

The wild weather that has blanketed parts of the South Island with snow and closed roads has advanced North and is bring torrential rain and damaging winds to the Wellington, Wairarapa and the central North Island.

Winds of up to 167km/h lashed the lower North Island today, bringing down powerlines and sending outdoor furniture flying.

Look back at RNZ's live coverage and keep on top of what you need to know.

Wairarapa and Manawatu

About 4500 properties throughout the central North Island, including New Plymouth, Whanganui, Palmerston North, Masterton and Taihape, are facing a night without power. Earlier in the day 10,000 households were without power.

Powerco Network Operations Manager Phil Marsh said contractors were out fixing lines but the storm was making things very difficult.

"I fear that there will people ... without power."

He said some people may have to wait until the weekend when the weather was expected to improve.

Some cell towers in the area have been running on batteries since yesterday morning and these could run out in the next few hours resulting in the loss of cell phone, landline and broadband services.

Flooded fields adjacent to the Ruamahanga River in Martinborough

Flooded fields adjacent to the Ruamahanga River in Martinborough. Photo: Supplied / Matthew Finn

In Masterton a handful of residents had to be evacuated from homes on Jones Place after stormwater drains could not cope with the deluge.

Local Civil Defence officers said there was widespread flooding in the region and they advised residents to only travel if absolutely necessary.

There have also been multiple State Highway and local road closures in the area.

Flooding outside the Martinborough Museum.

Flooding outside the Martinborough Museum. Photo: Supplied / Matthew Finn

Seven kilometres north of Masterton, resident Ronny Percy said the rain had been persistent all day.

"We woke up to floods on the flats.

"It's probably the biggest floods we've had here."

In Martinborough, hotel worker Cathy Hutchison said it has been raining solidly all day.

"The square's all full of water, the gutters are all full. There's ... water coming over the road like a river."

Simon McKay said it is the worst flooding he has seen on his farm north of Masterton in a dozen years.

The flooding on Simon McKay and his wife's farm. Photo: Supplied / Simon McKay

And half and hour northeast of Masterton, farmer Simon McKay said it was the worst flooding he had seen on his property in about 12 years.

He said between 70 and 80mm was forecast but 178mm fell in the last 24 hours.

"It has eased up in the last few hours, there's apparently a bit of a lull and then it's going to start again probably about 1am and go through until about 8 or 9am.

"I'd imagine there could be a bit of damage to come."

Civil Defence in the Hutt Valley is monitoring the Wainuiomata River and Waiwhetu Stream very closely and said there was the potential for evacuations. The Lower Hutt Emergency Management Office has been activated as a precautionary measure as heavy rain is forecast overnight.

Central North Island

Manawatu-Whanganui Regional Council will staff its emergency operations centre overnight, with concerns over flooding in Manawatu.

It expects to open the Moutoa floodgates on the Manawatu River between Foxton and Shannon early tomorrow morning, along with the Mangaone Stream in Palmerston North.

That may affect some roads in the Milson Line area.

The council said another weather pattern in the morning may bring up to 100 millimetres of rain in the Tararuas, which is more than fell today, as well as more snow in the northern part of the region.

The Ruapehu District Council emergency centre will also be staffed overnight, while the Tararua and Manawatu district councils will monitor the situation.

Hawke's Bay Civil Defence said 20 motorists were rescued from their vehicles this afternoon.

The Transport Agency said 14 trucks were stranded on State Highway 1 between Taihape and Mangaweka, although 10 trucks are out of the snow and the remainder are parked up overnight.

SH1 is closed from Hunterville through to the Desert Road and the usual detour route through National Park is also closed, as is State Highway 4 from Whanganui to Raetihi.

Ohakune and Raetihi are essentially cut off - with major highways in the region closed by heavy snow, and the risk of avalanches has closed skifields on Mount Ruapehu.

The Napier-Taupō Road will be closed until at least tomorrow morning, and with SH1 also closed by snow at Taihape, meaning Taihape is cut off.

Wellington

In Wellington, the last flight to land from Christchurch was bumpy and nauseating.

Regional flights in and out of the capital have been disrupted, with many cancelled or delayed, as strong winds batter the region.

Wild weather has downed power lines and snapped trees and branches with winds gusts around the 130km/h mark whipping the capital throughout the day.

Heavy rain caused surface flooding, and strong winds lifted part of the roof of Fraser Park's grandstand in Lower Hutt.

The Hutt City Council said Block Road was closed, and the grandstand's roof tiling couldn't be fixed yet because it was too dangerous for firefighters.

The ground has been closed as a precaution.

Strong waves batter the coast at Houghton Bay in Wellington.

Strong waves batter the coast at Houghton Bay in Wellington. Photo: RNZ / Caitlin Cherry

Civil Defence controller Bruce Pepperell said he was fed up that some Wellingtonians did not realise items as big as trampolines could be picked up and thrown around.

"We've seen it on numerous occasions. We've had trampolines up trees, on roofs.

"It's like a bowling ball, it'll take out everything in its path."

A carpark and childcare centre in a Lyall Bay shopping centre needed to be evacuated as fire fighters worked to secure roofing iron in the high winds, a fire service spokesperson said.

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