Power cuts, roofs lifting as red alert level wind starts to batter south

High winds sweeping the South Island have already left hundreds of homes in Canterbury without power and reportedly reversed at least one flight.

MetService has issued a rare red weather warning for the Canterbury High Country and foothills – from Sunday afternoon to early Monday morning – just days after severe winds swept across the country causing widespread damage.

The gale-force winds, associated with a cold front moving into the South Island, were expected to reach gusts of up to 100 miles per hour in unprotected areas, a MetService spokesperson said.

Red alerts are reserved for only the most extreme weather events where significant impact and disruption is expected.

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Although winds were not expected to peak until later Sunday evening, Brent Dunn, fire and emergency chief Brent Dunn, said they have already started attending weather-related calls.

There were reports of roofs being lifted in Invercargill and Dunedin, he said, and crews attended a grass fire in Ashburton after winds fanned flames from a burnout pit.

“Some pretty strong winds are forecast tonight, so we’re expecting a lot more of these as the night goes on.”

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In South Canterbury, Alpine Energy said power outages in Arundel, Craigmore, Four Peaks, Otaio and Peel Forest.

Further north, Orion Energy had about 700 homes in the Coalgate, Glentunnel, Glenroy, Hororata, Lake Coleridge, Rakaia Gorge, Terrace Downs and Windwhistle areas, without power after a tree blown onto the lines.

There were also reports that a flight from Wellington to Queenstown was unable to land and was turned back. Air New Zealand has been approached for comment.

A MetService image showing where weather warnings are in effect.

WithService/Things

A MetService image showing where weather warnings are in effect.

Winds were likely to cause widespread damage throughout the Canterbury High Country and foothills throughout the evening, especially to trees and power lines, MetService said.

MetService meteorologist Hordur Thordarson said transportation and electricity networks could be significantly affected, with road closures and power outages likely.

Driving conditions would be dangerous and there was a danger to life from falling trees or branches and flying debris, he said. Strong winds can lift roofs and damage unsecured structures.

A severe weather warning has also been issued for Christchurch and the Banks Peninsula.

Sunday morning it will blow over Lake Takapō/Tekapo.

George Empson/delivered

Sunday morning it will blow over Lake Takapō/Tekapo.

MetService warned that winds would likely be strong enough to damage trees and power lines and make driving dangerous.

“Guests are expected to be particularly strong on the Banks Peninsula, with gusts up to 140 km/h in unprotected areas, but even in the city of Christchurch, the gusts could cause damage to detached structures, trees and power lines.”

The strongest winds were forecast for the night.

“We recommend that you secure all outdoor items that are at risk of being blown away and that you stay safe and exercise caution when on our roads or walking under branches,” MetService said in a statement.

Farmers prepare for wild weather

South Canterbury Federated Farmers president Greg Anderson, a farmer from the Mackenzie District, said he hoped the winds wouldn’t be as strong as predicted.

“There were many trees in the Mackenzie Basin after Thursday night’s winds, but no major damage to the infrastructure.

“All you can do is tie things up and not stand in the wind. We always get quite windy here. Stock is not the problem; they are milking sheds, irrigators and loose iron.”

The latest warning followed recorded winds of 97 km/h in Timaru, 120 km/h at Aoraki/Mt Cook, 89 km/h at Twizel and 100 km/h at Omarama on Thursday evening.

Heavy winds resulted in damaged power lines in South Canterbury on Friday.

Delivered

Heavy winds resulted in damaged power lines in South Canterbury on Friday.

Risk of power outage

Airlines across the South Island teamed up to prepare for the high winds.

“Alpine Energy, Electricity Ashburton, MainPower, Network Waitaki and Orion are working to restore power to the remaining customers in our networks after the severe weather that hit our regions from the early hours of Friday,” Michelle Agnew, communications and marketing manager from Alpine Energy said.

The company has sought help from other South Island carriers and their field service providers, Agnew said.

If the weather was deemed unsafe to proceed, all field personnel would be held back, she said.

Trees were blown down near Temuka on Friday morning after strong winds in the night.

Valentina Bellomo/Stuff

Trees were blown down near Temuka on Friday morning after strong winds in the night.

NZ Fire & Emergency Warning

Fire and Emergency NZ has also warned people to prepare for severe storms.

Mike Johns, assistant area manager for Canterbury, said the red alert “makes it clear that the storm will be stronger than the storms that burned and caused damage on Thursday and Friday”.

Wind in Takapō/Tekapo on Sun afternoon.

George Empson/delivered

Wind in Takapō/Tekapo on Sun afternoon.

“We are contacting the brigade chiefs this morning to notify them and emphasize that safety is the number one priority when called upon during these storms,” Johns said.

Fire and Emergency has issued advice for affected people:

  • Don’t light outdoor fires – even if it’s calm now, severe storms are coming
  • If you’ve lit an outdoor fire in the past week, make sure it’s completely out, as many of last Friday’s fires have been re-ignited from old fire pits
  • Soak the discarded ash from your house fires to make sure they are completely cold
  • Farmers with irrigators and spindle need to charge and align them for a northwestern storm
  • Bring in all loose furniture around your property
  • Tying down trampolines, fallen trees and branches can cause power cuts
  • Treat all fallen lines as alive
  • Avoid non-essential travel and keep an eye out for fallen debris.

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