14 Jul 2017

Most roads reopen in North Island following storm

7:13 pm on 14 July 2017

Motorists are now able to travel through the middle of the North Island with most highways reopened, except for the Desert Road.

The wild weather 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.

The Ruapehu District Council said things were starting to get back to normal with most central North Island highways, including the Napier-Taupo road, reopening.

It said the Desert Road was likely to remain shut for a day or two.

The council's chief executive and civil defence controller, Clive Manley, said motorists still needed to be careful.

"In the early hours of the morning, the temperature would have gone back to freezing again so the roads will be extremely icy in the early hours of the morning, so even though the roads appear to be clear, people should still drive with extreme caution."

Mr Manley said it was not just motorists who needed to take care as St John had also been treating people who had slipped on frozen footpaths.

The Transport Agency urged motorists to drive to the conditions and said to expect crews still working on the roads.

There would also be a lot of people trying to use the roads after the long closures so drivers needed to be patient, it said.

Civil Defence said most roads in Wairarapa had reopened, but it was warning motorists to expect further closures as the sodden terrain was prone to slips.

Among the roads that had re-opened was the route to Riversdale and Castle Point, about an hour east of Masterton.

However Martinborough remained cut off by flooding on State Highway 53.

The next update on the roads is expected at 5am tomorrow.

Warning over river levels

And the Manawatu-Whanganui regional council is warning residents that the Turakina River may rise to alarming levels later this evening because of melting snow.

The council's modelling showed the river peaking at 8.5 metres about 9 tonight - a metre-and-a-half above the warning level.

While it's not declaring a state of emergency, the Rangitikei District Council said farmers in the Koitiata area should move their stock, and people wishing to leave the area should do so before dark.

Meanwhile, Lines company Powerco said more than 4000 of its customers remained without electricity across the central North Island.

A spokesperson said there was a chance that number would continue to decrease tonight with crews working through until 9pm.

Power to Waiouru and Taihape had been restored although outlying areas would take longer.

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