AUCKLAND: Up to a quarter of homes in Auckland were without power on Wednesday after a wild storm packing winds of more than 200kmh (125mph) lashed New Zealand’s largest city.
The storm hit the city of 1.5 million overnight, bringing down trees and peeling roofs from houses, with emergency services saying they were “inundated” responding to calls.
Auckland international airport closed temporarily due to high winds and Air New Zealand reported “significant” knock-on disruption for passengers nationwide.
At Hobsonville Point, in the city’s north-west, the gale-force winds brought down scaffolding on an apartment building construction site, creating a spectacular mess of tangled metal.
The official Metservice forecasting bureau said wind gust readings reached 213kmh, equivalent to a category three severe tropical cyclone.
Auckland mayor Phil Goff revealed “an unprecedented 200,000 properties” lost power at the height of the storm and the local council said crews were working around the clock to fix the problem.
“Around a quarter of properties in the Auckland region … up to 120,000 properties are currently without power,” it said.
Meteorologist Philip Duncan of weatherwatch.co.nz said forecasters had predicted strong winds but their severity was unexpected.
He said a low pressure system from the Tasman Sea made landfall directly over Auckland at the same time New Zealand was being buffeted by southerly winds from Antarctica.
“All of that combined created damaging gales that were a notch above the forecasts,” he said.
The country’s national carrier Air New Zealand urged travellers to defer any non-urgent trips as flights were disrupted by the weather.
“Air New Zealand is experiencing significant disruption across its network today as a result of weather conditions and the temporary closure of the Auckland Airport runway last night which required a number of flights to divert to other ports,” the company said in an emailed statement.
Roads were littered with debris and some traffic lights were out, prompting authorities to request the more than 1.3 million residents of New Zealand’s commercial capital to stay home if possible.
“There is damage across Auckland this morning after last night’s severe storm … please only travel if you have to,” Auckland City Council said on its website.
The storm, which was expected to continue for the next few days, started pummelling the country on Tuesday, bringing unseasonable autumn snow to parts of the South Island and small tornadoes in the central north island.
Heavy rains and snow were expected to continue for the next few days and the country’s Metservice issued a warning for more severe winds in Auckland, expected to hit on Thursday night.
Aucklanders have been warned to expect further bad weather until Friday.