30 Jul 2008

Storm's wrath felt from Northland to Nelson

9:25 pm on 30 July 2008

The storm moving down the country is making itself felt from Northland to Nelson as high winds and heavy rain cause slips, flooding, power outages and road closures and force people to evacuate their homes.

In Horowhenua - including the towns of Levin, Foxton and Shannon - 30,000 are unlikely to have power restored until at least Thursday. Other areas, including Northland, Bay of Plenty, East Coast and Manawatu, have also been experiencing power cuts.

Residents in the Far North have been urged to stay off the roads as winds gust up to 130 kilometres an hour and boats wash ashore even in sheltered areas.

Far North District Council says the area is on the receiving end of a "sting in the tail" as more reports come in of flooding and roads closures. Severe gusts are expected to continue overnight.

Civil defence emergency in Marlborough

Marlborough has declared a civil defence emergency as emergency services deal with widespread flooding that has forced the evacuation of dozens of houses.

The district council says police have requested greater powers to ensure people's safety.

Flooding has closed roads around Blenheim, and low-lying areas of Picton are under water, including a number of homes. The Alexanders Motor Camp in Picton has been evacuated and emergency services are sandbagging houses in about four streets.

Police in Picton have been going door to door evacuating people in streets parallel to a flooded stream. They fear the flooding could worsen at high tide.

The council says matters are under control but it wants to have emergency powers in place if the situation becomes more difficult.

Marlborough District Council spokesperson Alan Johnson says flooding is affecting storm water and sewage systems.

Four houses in Blenheim have been evacuated because of sewage problems. Damage to the Maitai water supply pipeline is being assessed and residents have been told to cut water consumption as much as possible for the next 24 hours.

Mr Johnson says residents should not leave their homes on Wednesday night unless it is an emergency.

Severe wind gusts and flying debris are also being reported.

Police say the water is waist high and fast moving in areas. Rain is forecast to continue through the night, and a high tide at 8pm will add to the area's woes.

A Red Cross worker in Picton says the organisation is providing overnight shelter in a school hall for 30 people. Sam Morrison says they are relieved to be warm and dry, but worried about their homes and caravans.

North Shore slip

A group of homes on Auckland's North Shore is under threat from a big slip caused by heavy rain.

The Fire Service says 14 houses in Lingham Crescent, in the suburb of Torbay, have been evacuated. One has almost been destroyed. The slip is thought to cover up to 5000 square metres.

Residents are being allowed in to pick up important possessions.

Evacuations in Bay of Plenty

Civil Defence staff in the Bay of Plenty say there have been nine evacuations in Waihi Beach and Omokoroa because of flooding or slips.

Flooding is to blame for two evacuations at Pio Shores in Waihi Beach, while there have also been four evacuations at the nearby Beachhaven Holiday Park. Three homes on Harbourview Road in the Omokoroa area have also been evacuated as a result of slips.

Motorists in the region have been urged to drive with caution because of the slips, particularly either side of Katikati.

Mini tornado in Mt Maunganui

A mini tornado in the Gloucester Road area of Mt Maunganui tore down mature trees and damaged five houses, lifting roof tiles and breaking windows. It struck at 9am on Wednesday. Power poles have been brought down in Mt Maunganui and the Tauranga suburb of Pyes Pa.

Northland power cuts

Wind gusts of more than 100 kilometres an hour are causing more power cuts in Northland.

Northpower says about 500 homes west of Whangarei are without power as new faults develop.

Wind batters Levin

In Levin, people were told on Wednesday morning to stay indoors as winds of up to 120 kilometres an hour hit the town.

Trees fell on to power lines, cutting electricity, schools were closed and roofs lifted. Many roads are reported to be closed or unpassable.

Horowhenua District Council says the town and surrounding areas have been hit hard, and matters have not been helped by the widespread power blackouts.

It says power has gone out further south too, in the Kapiti town of Otaki.

Shannon residents are without water after a lightning strike took out the intake pump at the water treatment plant.

The traffic lights on State Highway 1 at Levin are also out, but the council says lines company Electra is trying to get power back to the town centre on Wednesday night.

It says it could be up to a week before power is restored to rural areas.

Many people in Levin have reported damage to buildings, as well as felled fences and trees.

East Coast

On the East Coast, police have evacuated several families from their homes at Mangatuna, north of Tolaga Bay, because of a rising river.

Flooding and slips have closed two schools north of Gisborne. About 250 students at Ngati College in Ruatoria and a Te Kura in the township were forced to stay at home because the roads are too treacherous for bus drivers to negotiate.

Gisborne District Council says the Waiotu River south of Tokomaru Bay broke its banks early on Wednesday and temporarily closed State Highway 35 south of the township.

Trees down, power out in Nelson

In Nelson, strong winds brought down trees, and some people are without power.

Nelson City Council workers engaged in clearing trees in the Maitai Valley have closed the road because of fears that other trees may fall.

Power is out in the Atawhai area as far as Lud Valley, north of Nelson.

Flights cancelled

Air New Zealand has cancelled six domestic flights, and a number of regional ones, because of the weather.

It advises passengers to expect more delays until the storm passes, and to check the airline's website or 0800 number before going to the airport.

No international flights have been affected.

Road closures

A number of North Island roads remain closed.

A flooded Ohinemuri River has closed State Highway 26 near Paeroa, and closures are reported on many parts of State Highway 25 on the Coromandel Peninsula.

State Highway 2 is closed between Awakeri and Taneatua, and at the Karangahake Gorge.

A big slip has also blocked all lanes on State Highway 2 between Napier and Wairoa. No diversions are available and the closure is expected to last some time.

Next in line

Evacuations are under way in Greymouth on Wednesday evening because of severe winds.

In north Canterbury, it has been raining heavily and there have been reports of rockfalls in Kaikoura.

Police are warning motorists to be aware of strong winds blowing branches and other debris across roads.