14 Jul 2017

Storm damage cuts power, closes roads

2:31 pm on 14 July 2017

Power cuts and closed highways have been left in the wake of the storm that has caused days of disruption as it barrelled up the country.

The wild weather has blanketed parts of the South Island with snow and closed roads lashed north, bringing torrential rain and damaging winds to the Wellington, Wairarapa and the central North Island.

Metservice said Hawkes Bay and Gisborne were likely to bear the brunt of today's bad weather.

More snow is expected in the Central Plateau and Hawke's Bay ranges until late in the afternoon.

MetService said it was likely to cause continuing disruption to transport in the central North Island high country.

Heavy rain and southerly gales were expected in Hawke's Bay, Gisborne and the eastern ranges of Bay of Plenty and Taupō today.

The strong cold southerly flow over the North Island is forecast to gradually ease today, MetService said.

Meanwhile, emergency food drops are being made to several hundred people stuck at hotels at the base of Mount Ruapehu, as supplies run low.

Flooding on the way to Martinborough.

Flooding in paddocks in the Wairarapa. Photo: RNZ / Jacob McSweeny

About 1000 properties in the Hawke's Bay town of Wairoa were the latest to lose power.

Power was cut to about 10,000 homes overnight, but by the afternoon Powerco had restored it to about 3000 homes in the central North Island.

About 7300 homes and businesses remained without electricity at 1pm, hours after lines were knocked over in heavy snow overnight.

Wairarapa, Manawatu and Ruapehu including the townships of Waiouru, Ohakune, Taihape, Raetihi and Marton were all affected.

More than 3500 people in Wellington's northern suburbs were also without power this morning due to a substation outage.

Powerco network operations Phil Marsh told Morning Report the main cause of the cuts in the lower North Island were falling trees, flying debris and snow-laden branches that broke off onto lines.

The company had about 150 crews out yesterday but he said it was a huge job to get the repairs done, and access was difficult.

"Some of our contractors actually got stuck themselves."

The company planned to send out helicopters to assess the wider damage and some might not get power back on until the evening.

Ross I'Anson from the Transport Agency said parts of the Central Plateau remained closed.

The ski town of Ohakune remains cut off by road, with every main highway surrounding Mount Ruapehu still closed.

Ruapehu District Council said snow clearing would start again this morning and it was optimistic the roads would be open later today.

Horizons Regional Council said it opened the Moutoa floodgates in the early hours of this morning and the Mangaone Stream spillway in Palmerston North was expected to be open later this morning.

The worst of the rain appears to be over in Wellington but Mark Owen from the Transport Agency said there was still lots of surface flooding in some areas and slips were still a danger.

The Napier-Taupō Road (SH5) was also closed.

SH56 at Opiki and SH53 from Featherston to Martinborough were also closed due to flooding.

NZ Army helping people trapped by the weather in Waiouru.

NZ Army helped people trapped by the weather in Waiouru yesterday. Photo: Twitter: @CDF_NZ

The only ways from Auckland to Wellington are SH3 via Hamilton and New Plymouth to Bulls and then on to SH2 down to the capital. Or via the East Cape on SH35.

Flooding, slips and snow has closed local roads in regions in the south and from Wellington right through to the Central Plateau. Check the Transport Agency's website for more info.

In Wellington, the city council said there were a number of substantial slips blocking or partially blocking roads Wadestown, Seatoun, Khandallah and Melrose.

It said motorists needed to take care and also watch out for fallen trees and branches.

River levels in the Hutt Valley and Wainuiomata, which had been rising last night, receded.

Ferry services were expected to resume sometime today.

Snow in Ohakune earlier today.

Snow in Ohakune yesterday. Photo: Screenshot: Mt Ruapehu

In the South Island, the alpine passes were open apart from Lewis Pass which was closed because a truck carrying hazardous materials crashed and caught fire.

However, snow and ice warnings remained in place and motorists were advised to use chains.

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