Two large trees have fallen in Wellington and the risk of slips and surface flooding is increasing as gale-force southerly winds and heavy rain hit the region.
Metservice has recorded wind gusts as strong as 146 km/h at Mt Kaukau this afternoon and 6.8mm of rain in one hour at the Remutaka Hill summit.
Wellington City Council resilience manager Chris Mathews said trees have fallen on Barnard and Sar streets in Wadestown and powerlines might have been brought down in one case.
“Wind speeds appear to be increasing along with heavy rainfall – and the Council is starting to receive reports of trees toppling and some surface flooding.”
Cyclone Gabrielle has brought wild weather to Wellington today. Photo / WCC
Mathews said the risk of slips and surface flooding was increasing and council staff and contractors were watching the situation closely.
Cyclone Gabrielle is making its way across the North Island, although Wellington Region Emergency Management has reported the majority of its impact is further north.
A State of National Emergency has been declared for New Zealand. At this stage, this doesn’t apply to Wellington but it has been extended to cover the Tararua District.
Regardless, Welingtonians have been advised to avoid all non-essential travel today.
Rongotai College has closed due to the worsening weather conditions and all Cook Strait and harbour ferry sailings are cancelled.
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Hutt City Council has also advised the Riverbank car park is closed. Anyone currently parked there should vacate the car park as quickly as possible.
MetService has issued an orange strong wind warning for the Wairarapa, Tararua District, Kāpiti Coast, Horowhenua.
Southeast gales could be severe at times with gusts reaching 130km/h in exposed places, the forecaster warned.
The wind is expected to ease in these places this afternoon but will continue in Wellington until midnight, where the warning is also in place.
An orange heavy rain warning is also now in place for the Wairarapa and Tararua District until 6pm.
It’s expected between 50 to 100mm of rain will accumulate about the ranges and eastern hills, and 30 to 50mm in lower-lying areas.
This is on top of the rain which has already fallen.
Several roads are closed in the Masterton District Council region due to slips and flooding including Te Parae Rd and Masterton Castlepoint Rd from Taueru.
“There is no longer safe road access into and out of our eastern and coastal communities with more likely to close as the weather continues,” the council said on its website.
With the rain warning extended to 6pm, flood levels may take some time to recede to allow the council to access other problems like slips.
Sandbags were made available to Masterton, Carterton, and South Wairarapa residents ahead of the bad weather.
Wellington Electricity has warned of potential power outages in Wellington, Hutt Valley and Porirua.
Chief executive Greg Skelton said the wind could cause trees and branches to fall on power lines.
“If you see fallen lines, please stay well away from them.”
Interislander executive general manager Walter Rushbrook said ferry sailings would be cancelled for 24 hours from 2am today. The cancellations affect 12 sailings.
“Safety is our top priority and the weather has made cancellation the only option. We have also been advised Picton Port is closed due to high wind/swell conditions until 10pm.”
Bookings are being fully refunded and customers have been told to check the Interislander’s website for availability later in the week.
A Bluebridge Cook Strait Ferries spokeswoman said the company also hoped to resume sailings on Wednesday morning.
Metlink general manager Samantha Gain said passengers who do not need to travel over the coming days should stay home.
Both bus and rail networks remain open but Ngauranga station will be closed to trains and a shuttle will operate between Wellington, Ngauranga and Petone in both directions.
”Given its exposed location, with forecast high winds and possible swells, we are unable to safely let passengers board or disembark from Ngauranga Station’s platforms,” Gain said.
The Capital Connection train is not running today.
Any public transport updates or disruptions to services will be posted on Metlink’s website and app, Gain said.
Wellingtonians have been told to prepare for the weather by securing large, light or loose objects in their homes and backyards.
They were also told to check the drains on the street outside their house to make sure they were not blocked by leaf litter or rubbish.
“If people can just run a broom over the drain or remove any plastic bottles or cans or similar – this can make a big difference if we get heavy rain,” Mathews said.
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