4 Oct 2015

More wild winds to hammer South Island

10:59 pm on 4 October 2015

Strong winds that have hammered the South Island, with gusts of more than 190 kilometres an hour, are just a taste of what is to come this week.

The wind flow over New Zealand is creating massive gusts towards the country's south-east coast.

The wind flow over New Zealand is creating massive gusts towards the country's south-east coast. Photo: weatherwatch.co.nz

MetService forecaster Claire Flynn said it had been blowing hard in Southland and Canterbury.

"We've had gusts recorded up to about 195 kilometres per hour in Mid Dome near Lumsden, so that's quite an impressive gust, it's not every day you see one of those that's for sure. But then in terms of towns and cities we had gusts up to about 135 kilometres per hour at Mount Cook airport and then we also had gusts of 130 kilometres per hour in Invercargill city."

There have been a number of fires in South Canterbury ignited by strong winds stirring up embers of old burn-offs.

At least 60 fire-fighters have tackled the eight fires in that region.

Emergency crews have got a forestry fire under control in North Canterbury. It broke out in the south-west corner of Ashley Forest, north of Rangiora. Eighteen fire trucks and crews were at the scene on Sunday evening.

Deputy principal rural fire officer Ray Gardner said the sources of the fires included week-old burn-off sites, and in one case a four-week-old site.

"It just demonstrates that while we've got a green flush on top, it is still very dry from last year and the way the season is going and the forecast El Nino summer that we're going to have a lot more fires and people are going to have to be very, very conscious of what they're doing and how they're doing it."

Fire Service shift commander Riwai Grace said other fires had been started by lightning strikes, and crews had responded to 45 calls-outs in the lower South Island.

"Fingers crossed there's no one out there lighting fires because right now it is very windy and they can spread very quickly and cause a lot of havoc to a lot of different people."

A MetService spokesperson said the front responsible for the bad weather was moving north and it would be a windy week for the country.

Rob Kerr said weather watches were in place for the week and people should take care tonight.

"It's pretty severe conditions out there and it's expected to continue right the way through the evening. I know it's not a commuter day but certainly anyone who is out and about should keep their travel to a minimum, it could be really dangerous on the roads out there."

Two Air New Zealand flights to Dunedin Airport this afternoon were cancelled due to high winds.

Hundreds will be without power overnight

More than 1000 households in Dunedin, Central Otago and Canterbury will be without electricity overnight, after strong winds brought down power poles.

It's too risky for engineers to fix the lines in Dunedin and Otago, so they will get to work reconnecting 800 homes in the morning.

It's the same picture on the outskirts of Timaru and rural Waimate where 350 customers in Taiko and rural areas of Timaru, Temuka and Waimate have been warned that they will not be reconnected until tomorrow.

Due to the winds, households without electricity are being warned they might not be reconnected before nightfall, and they should prepare to be without power overnight.

Motorists urged to take care

Police are urging motorists to drive carefully in Southland, Otago and Canterbury.

A police spokesperson said the wind was churning up dust from recently ploughed paddocks affecting visibility for drivers, and the strong gusts were also making it difficult for motorists to control towed and heavy vehicles.

One woman has been taken to Timaru hospital with a neck injury after a campervan and a utility vehicle were blown over on the Tekapo-Twizel road shortly before 1pm.

Another woman has been taken to Dunedin Hospital after being blown off her bike in Ranfurly.

Canterbury Civil Defence authorities said the winds could be as bad as the ones that hit the region two years ago which cut electricity to 30,000 properties and caused widespread damage.

People are being advised to bring outdoor furniture inside and make sure their emergency kits are up to date.

Canterbury Civil Defence Emergency Management group duty officer James Thompson said more precautions would be needed if the winds did hit.

"Normally we just try to get people to stay in their properties, in their houses, not move round too much, don't drive, those sorts of things. It's a case of hunkering down and waiting for the winds to subside."

Emergency management Southland advisor Sandra Miller said Southlanders needed to batten down the hatches.

"We're asking them just to buckle down large objects that might be able to fly around like trampolines and small sheds, that type of thing. Make sure their boats are moored properly in the harbour and if there's anything that they think that could be like missiles or something that's lying outside, just to bring it inside."

Ms Miller also encouraged people not to drive unless it was really necessary.

Farmers are also being warned to make sure irrigators and other large pieces of equipment are securely stored.

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