A three storey building site collapsed as fierce winds downed trees and left 110,000 Auckland homes without power.
Auckland was battered by hurricane force gusts and heavy rain overnight. Gusts reached 100-150kmh across central Auckland, peaking at 213kmh at Manukau Heads.
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Aucklanders are being warned to drive only if they have to, with debris and trees littering roads and multiple traffic lights, motorway signage and traffic cameras not working.
Winds also tore rooves off houses. In at least one case a tree fell onto a car with a woman inside. Among the most spectacular casualties, a three storey building site collapsed in Hobsonville.
A worker at the Rangihina Rd site declined to comment about the damage.
Vector said there were more than 200 power outages across the Auckland region, with more than 110,000 homes affected.
“Strong, intense winds and heavy rain have caused widespread damage on the electricity network throughout Auckland,” a spokeswoman said.
More than 10,000 calls were placed to Vector’s contact centre to report power outages, faults, and lines down overnight.
Crews worked through the night to restore power to some areas, bringing power back to roughly 70,000 customers.
Fire and Emergency said there were 1600 calls to the 111 emergency line overnight in Auckland.
They included calls to trees and powerlines down, roofs blown off houses, houses damaged by falling trees and crashes where cars had hit falling trees, Fire and Emergency northern communications shift manager Daniel Nicholson said.
The busiest time was between 8pm and 1am, with West Auckland hit first, then reports of damage spreading out across the city, Nicholson said.
The strongest winds hit west Auckland from about 8-9pm, then further east from about 9-10pm.
Firefighters were continuing to work through the backlog in the early hours of the morning, and at 5am were still taking some calls but fewer than during the busy overnight period.
AUCKLAND WAKES UP TO DESTRUCTION
Trees had fallen on to homes and cars across Auckland.
Oratia resident Zane Martin said it would have been a 200km gust that knocked over the tree that now covered a car on his property.
“It was just a roar, the wind was louder than the tree coming down.”
He wasn’t sure what would happen next. The water had been shut off, power was down and the landlord was coming to asses the damage.
“I don’t know where we go from here.”
The car was a write off, he said.
Another tree had fallen across the neighbour’s house.
“I talked to them about 5am this morning. They’re ok. Luckily the one that came down on their place was one of the smaller ones. It’s just resting on the place.”
Mt Albert resident Mikayla Lambert was at home last night when she heard what sounded like an explosion.
“I went outside and saw the massive willow tree at the end of our street had completely fallen down - I was shocked.”
The tree was “massive, very thick and sturdy” and often had local kids climbing it.
A tree was ripped out of the tarmac in Ponsonby Rd last night.
Karangahape Rd resident Hamish Stirrat said the sight of the downed tree was “pretty epic.”
“These trees must be at least 80 or 90 years old and its just giving away.”
Royal Oak resident Sumil Singh woke to find part of the roof on his unit had been ripped off.
“The wind has pulled it up,” Singh said.
“I don’t know where it’s gone. I had a look around for it, but can’t find it anywhere.”
He said his family hunkered down in the storm last night, listening to banging sounds on the roof above.
Rain was collecting in the hole in the roof but no water was coming into the unit.
“I’m just grateful there’s no water inside.”
Residents on Brighton Rd noticed that a large tree had fallen onto their neighbour’s carport, damaging it.
A number of West Auckland schools had been closed:
– Lynfield College said on its website it was closed for the day on Wednesday, for the health and safety of staff.
– Oratia District School in the Waitakere Ranges was advising parents to not travel to school unless necessary.
– Oranga School in Onehunga was closed due to a power outage.
– There are reports a roof has been blown off at Hobsonville Point Primary School.
– Kelston Boys High School was closed.
– Edmonton Primary School, Henderson Valley School and Sunnyvale Primary School were also closed.
- Ardmore School in Papakura has also been closed.
CELLPHONE TOWERS OFFLINE
Telecommunications had also been affected, with Spark warning customers that they may experience slower than usual mobile data connections.
A Spark spokeswoman said although the network had not sustained any physical damage from the storm, the widespread power outages meant 50 Spark cellphone towers around the country were offline, and more were running on battery power.
A majority of the affected cellphone towers were in the greater Auckland area, she said.
The telco said they were deploying generators to restore power to some cellphone towers on Thursday morning, where possible.
“Customers may still receive some mobile coverage from other cellphone towers in their area. However customers may experience slower than usual mobile data connections as the load increases on the remaining towers.”
She said broadband and landline customers in areas that experienced power outages may also experience a loss of service.
TRAFFIC WARNINGS WEDNESDAY
Traffic was at a standstill in parts of Auckland.
Due to widespread power outages, traffic lights, motorway signage and traffic cameras were not working, Auckland Transport spokesman Mark Hannan said.
There may also be surface flooding.
Approach uncontrolled intersections with caution and observe normal give way rules, Hannan said.
All motorways across the Auckland network and the Harbour Bridge remained open, NZTA said.
The following local roads are closed:
– Pine Ave between Parrs Cross Rd loops, Henderson
– Woodside Ave, Massey
– Temple St, Meadowbank
– Maskell St, St Heliers
– corner Marne Rd and Settlement Rd, Papakura
- Gillies Ave between Kohia Tce and Kimberley Rd, Epsom
The following roads are partially blocked:
– corner Charles Rd and Glenbrook Rd, Karaka
– corner Marne Rd and Settlement Rd, Papakura
The harbourmaster is currently dealing with seven vessels that have come ashore, Hannan said.
Train services have also been disrupted, with western line services operating between Henderson and Britomart only.
FIRE AND SNOW
Strong winds caused difficulties for about 50 firefighters at a major industrial blaze at the Kopu industrial complex, near Thames, Nicholson said.
The alarm was raised about 9.20pm, and there were multiple large fires at the complex, burning in timber, recycled material, large amounts of wood shavings, and bark material.
Firefighters were working to limit the spread of the fire and were likely to be at the site for most of Wednesday.
The southerly storm also brought snow to many parts of the country.
Snow closed the Desert Road, between Rangipo and Waiouru through the central North Island, shortly after midnight, with MetService reporting some snow falling as low as 500 metres.
The storm was starting to ease early on Wednesday but only very slowly, with much of the country still affected.
MetService duty meteorologist Doug Mason said the worst of the wind was over.
“Active” showers are forecast for the Auckland region on Wednesday, with the potential for thunderstorms and hail later in the day.
The storm will continue to use on Wednesday and Thursday, before another front makes its way across the country, Mason said.
As the intense low that brought the overnight battering moved away to the east the whole country was flooded by very cold air coming from Antarctica and the Southern Ocean.
Most of the 10 strongest gusts recorded overnight were in the Auckland region but there was also a gust of 142kmh recorded at Mt Kaukau in Wellington.
The low had come ashore over Waikato, and moved just south of Auckland. The strongest winds had been just to the north and northwest of the low. “This time around the windiest place in the country was indeed Auckland.”
Around 5am Wednesday the low was moving over Bay of Plenty. “It has weakened a little bit over land so the wind is starting to ease but only very slightly,” Marten said.
The snow that closed the Desert Road overnight had fallen to as low as 500m, although it hadn’t settled at that level. The significant accumulation of snow had been down to 700m.
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