Gale force wind warning remains, public urged to be wary of downed power lines
Gale force easterly winds gusting up to 130kmh are expected to continue to impact on storm-battered Northland, where people are today being warned to be very wary of downed power lines.
The MetService lifted heavy rain warnings for Northland just after 8.30am today, but warns the strong winds that have left thousands without power and caused a raft of other issues are set to continue into this afternoon before finally easing this evening.
Claire Nyberg, spokesperson for the Northland Civil Defence Emergency Management (CDEM) Group says clean up and repair work is ongoing this morning and given the wind warning authorities would keep a close watch on the situation throughout the day.
She says a 30-minute telephone briefing involving multiple emergency services, local authority, essential services and others held at 9am had revealed that despite wide-spread storm-related damage, overall the region was coping well today.
Thousands of people across the region were still without electricity, which was impacting on local authority sewage treatment systems and cellphone and phone coverage availability in some areas, however, power companies were working hard to restore power.
The power companies themselves have asked people to be extremely careful around downed power lines and treat them as live at all times. A Northpower spokesman says the company had had reports of people using chainsaws to clear trees around downed lines earlier today, but asked they not do so due to the obvious risks.
The spokesman says downed lines may well be live, electrical current could travel and the voltages could seriously harm or even kill someone.
"We're asking people to stop and call us on 0800 10 40 40 (or if a real emergency phone 111 also) and let our team of arborists and lines do the job with the right safety gear," Northpower says.
Meanwhile, Ms Nyberg says fallen trees and surface flooding have closed roads at a number of spots around the region, including on parts of its State Highway network.
Several rooms had also been affected by water at Bay of Islands Hospital at Kawakawa overnight with affected patients relocated there and the hospital was currently operating on generator power, as was Dargaville Hospital. Rawene Hospital was currently without power.
Ms Nyberg repeated her earlier warning that people should continue to be extremely careful today and avoid travelling unless absolutely necessary.
She says Northland Regional Council figures show in the 22 hours to 6am today 157.2mm of rain had fallen at Kaikohe, 149.5mm at Oromahoe, 126mm at Puhipuhi, 118.5mm at Kerikeri, 93.8mm at the council's Whangarei offices, 98.5mm on Kaipara's Tutamoe Ranges and 36mm at Dargaville. Figures for Kaitaia were not available.
Ms Nyberg says in Kaikohe's case, the amount of rain it had received in just under 24 hours was very close to the amount it would normally receive for the entire month of July.
She says Civil Defence will continue to closely monitor the weather situation today and update the public as required, including through the Northland CDEM Group's Facebook page – www.facebook.com/civildefencenorthland
Information about any local district council road and State Highway closures/issues in Northland while warnings are in force is available from the Automobile Association website via www.AAroadwatch.co.nz
The site contains a map and brief description of closed/affected roads and an indication of when the issue/s involved is likely to be resolved.
General Civil Defence information is also available from the Northland Regional Council's website www.nrc.govt.nz/civildefence