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Auckland Harbour Bridge closed due to high winds, region under severe thunderstorm watch

NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Wed, 29 May 2024, 10:03am

Auckland Harbour Bridge closed due to high winds, region under severe thunderstorm watch

NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Wed, 29 May 2024, 10:03am
  • A severe thunderstorm issued for Auckland, Coromandel and Waikato.
  • Gusts peak at 144km/h near Manukau Heads between 5pm and 6pm.
  • NZTA closed the Auckland Harbour Bridge temporarily tonight due to wind gusts.
  • Power is out to more than 17,000 Waikato properties.
  • Auckland emergency officials tell residents to be wary and prepared.
  • Desert Road closed due to snowfall.
  • Three Air New Zealand planes have been struck by lightning, more than 30 of its flights cancelled.

The Auckland Harbour Bridge has been closed tonight due to high winds but has now reopened, with bumper to bumper traffic moving slowly.

A post on the NZTA website about 8.15pm said the harbour bridge was closed and motorists were advised to detour via State Highway 16 and SH18.

MetService is reporting gusts on the harbour bridge reaching 120km/h.

However, the bridge has now reopened to traffic.

A motorist told NZME they were about to enter the bridge.

“It is open but bloody slow.”

Traffic is bumper to bumper approaching Auckland Harbour Bridge after it briefly closed tonight due to high winds.
Traffic is bumper to bumper approaching Auckland Harbour Bridge after it briefly closed tonight due to high winds.

A severe thunderstorm warning has been lifted for parts of Auckland and the Hauraki Gulf this evening, but forecasters warn the worst of the wild weather to strike the city is yet to come.

The top of the country remains under a severe thunderstorm watch with the wildest winds forecast into the evening.

Winds of 120km/h are tipped to pummel the Auckland region tonight, which is also being drenched by heavy rain.

Peak gusts of 144km/h were recorded this evening at Manukau Heads.









And three Air NZ planes have been struck by lightning and are now being reviewed by engineers to ensure they are safe to fly.

Vector says there are outages across the network tonight with strong gales across region blowing trees and vegetation onto lines.

The company would not provide figures on the number of homes without power but said its staff were “working hard in challenging conditions to safely restore power to our customers”.

“Our crews are assessing damage and restoring power where possible.”

At least 36 flights into or out of Auckland have been cancelled. A raft of delays have also impacted other domestic or international flights.

An Auckland Airport spokesperson said an alert that wind was exceeding 35 knots was issued to airlines at 3.35pm and remained in place at 7.30pm.

”These alerts are made in the interests of safety operations on the ground and operational decisions are at the discretion of airlines and ground handlers.

”Some arriving and departing flights may be impacted by weather, so we ask travellers to keep an eye out for messages from airlines about the status of their flight.

”Travellers were urged to contact airlines directly for information about flight delays or cancellations.”The safety of the airfield and the safe movement of aircraft is always our priority,” the spokesperson said.

Air New Zealand Chief Operating Officer Alex Marren said the airline had been closely monitoring the weather throughout the day to “ensure as many flights as possible have been able to get out safely.”.

However, the wild conditions had impacted its operations.

”Our Auckland services were temporarily paused four times today when gusting wind conditions meant it was not safe to operate at Auckland Airport,” Marren said.

“Three of our regional aircraft experienced lightning strikes earlier today and have been inspected by our engineering teams and are safe to return to service.”

Thirty-four of its regional services and six domestic jet services had been cancelled.

Air New Zealand was “working round the clock” to rebook impacted customers.

And in Waikato, thousands of properties are without power.

WEL Networks said power was out at more than 17,500 properties, with 27 separate outages across the district. The outage are expected to last for up to five hours for some of the affected homes.

The areas impacted include Raglan, Whatawhata, Hillcrest, Chartwell, Rototuna, Huntington, Puketaha and Gordonton.

The are also power outages being reported tonight in Wellington.

Torrential downpours, damaging winds and marble-sized hail rolled through the Upper North Island today and they are expected to get stronger as the afternoon continues. Some temporary short-term road closures may be necessary.

Auckland Emergency Management is warning Aucklanders to plan ahead for the impacts of high winds and possible power outages tonight.

“More wind is still to come,” AEM acting general manager Adam Maggs said.

“Messy weather systems like these are hard to predict and we still expect the effects of these gusty winds to be felt across the region overnight.”

People are being urged to stay off the roads, secure loose objects around the home and treat any downed power lines as live.

For those who do have to travel, Maggs urged caution.

High winds could force lane closures tonight on the Auckland Harbour Bridge. Photo / Michael Craig
High winds could force lane closures tonight on the Auckland Harbour Bridge. Photo / Michael Craig

“Strong winds can shift branches, signs and other items around very easily, so please take care of yourselves and each other if you are travelling home or heading out this evening. Take a moment to plan your journey before you go, drive to the conditions, watch your speed and avoid unnecessary trips if you can.”

Vector says power outages are affecting part of the city’s network. The outages are predominantly affecting the west coast and north-western parts of Auckland.

“Strong wind gusts are forecast into the evening, which could cause branches and trees to fall on power lines,” Vector said.

“Our crews will be stood down, if it becomes unsafe for them to work in the weather conditions. They will resume as soon as it is safe to do so.”

Snow is also forecast to fall on the Desert Road in the central North Island from 4pm today.

MetService meteorologist Mmathapelo Makgabutlane said exposed areas of Auckland had seen wind gusts up to 124km/h already.

“It’s been a very active morning, and that is set to continue for the rest of the afternoon and evening,” Makgabutlane said.

Auckland Mayor Wayne Brown said Aucklanders did not need to head home early “at this stage” but recommended only “essential travel”.

Maggs said it was important for Aucklanders to keep a close eye on any updates to the weather forecast and plan travel “very carefully”.

Maggs said commuters should keep be alert to changes in the roading network, public transport and any potential harbour bridge closures.

“If you are out, drive to the conditions – watch your speed and if you don’t need to be on the roads this afternoon or evening, you can help avoid any pressure on transport networks by staying in or delaying your trip.

“High winds can bring trees down and affect power services, so if you’re in an area prone to power outages, now is a good time to make sure you have a plan in place to do without power for a short period of time.”

A strong wind watch is in place for Northland south of Kaikohe, Coromandel Peninsula and the Kaimai Range, and Waikato north of Kawhia Harbour, Te Awamutu and Matamata. MetService warns winds may reach severe gales in exposed areas.

The weather has made its impact on the Coromandel.

Downed power lines lead to the partial closure of SH25 south of Thames, near Pipiroa, with traffic being diverted via rural roads.

NZ Transport Agency Waka Kotahi crews have been busy clearing fallen trees on SH23, SH31, SH37, SH39 and on SH1 at Karāpiro.

It said road users should be aware that there is a risk of further fallen trees this evening and overnight and roads may have to close as it will not be safe for NZTA crews to clear trees in the dark.

Earlier today, large pieces of hail blanketed Auckland streets, setting off car alarms and sending people running for cover. Residents compared the size of the hail to that of marbles.

Large hailstones have fallen as stormy weather slams Auckland.
Large hailstones have fallen as stormy weather slams Auckland.

Several areas lost power when trees brought down lines during the storm.

Makgabutlane said the wild weather was expected to ease tomorrow morning but some blustery conditions would linger.

“On Thursday, we’re still expecting it to be a pretty breezy day, but not as strong,” Makgabutlane said.

“However, in the South Island, that’s where we start to see winds cranking up from the northwest.”

Rachel Maher is an Auckland-based reporter who covers breaking news. She has worked for the Herald since 2022.

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