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Wild weather: Strong winds ground flights to and from Wellington

Strong winds in Wellington have forced multiple domestic flights to and from the city to be cancelled.

The high winds are hitting the centre of the country, with a warning in place for the capital and strong wind due in Nelson, Marlborough, Wairarapa, Taihape, Whanganui and parts of Taranaki.

So far, 18 Air New Zealand flights from around the country, including Auckland, Blenheim, Tauranga, Timaru and Nelson, to Wellington have been affected.

As at 8am, 15 Air New Zealand departures from the city to regions, including New Plymouth, Blenheim, Nelson, Rotorua, Napier, Auckland, Christchurch and Queenstown were listed as cancelled.

Air New Zealand said its flights will be affected through to mid-afternoon.

It said it had put on extra flights later this evening and will “continue to explore additional capacity as the day continues”.

The airline is offering fare flexibility for the next two days, where customers with cancelled flights will have the option to transfer their booking to another date, or hold the fare value in credit for up to 12 months for future travel.

Jetstar, Sounds Air and Golden Bay Air services were flying into and out of the Wellington.

RNZ

For the capital, MetService warned of severe northwest gales with gusts potentially reaching 140 km/h in open spaces. Already this morning the capital has been blasted by 82km/h winds.

MetService meteorologist Tahlia Crabtree said things would stay gusty until 6pm when the wind warning finished for the region.

Rain is also on the way to accompany the wind this afternoon as a front moves up from the south.

Damage to trees, powerlines and unsecured structures might also occur due to gusts.

Air New Zealand said passengers should subscribe to its travel alert service to receive ongoing updates.

All Cook Strait ferry sailings are running as planned, but local services have been affected by strong wind.

Ferries departing from Days Bay and Queens Wharf are running under a restricted schedule and commuters are advised to check Metlink’s website for an up-to-date timetable. No ferry services are operating out of Seatoun until this afternoon.

As the gales hit central parts of the country, the West Coast of the South Island is in for heavy rain.

Meteorologist Tahlia Crabtree said it had rained consistently overnight, with a heavy rain warning stretching from Westland to Buller for the rest of the day.

“We’ve had a number of stations recording upwards of 100mm over the last 12 hours with some stations getting hourly rainfall rates of 20mm or more,” she said.

“Which is quite a lot of rain when it’s consistently falling over a long period.”

Ms Crabtree said the rain was not heavier than usual for the region but lasting longer.

“Our heavy rain warnings are out, and there are risks of surface flooding, and rivers and lakes rising rapidly as the high rainfall gathers.”

Nelson and Tasman are also faced with a heavy rain warning as the front moves across the country spilling rain onto the ranges.

Ms Crabtree said from mid-morning to midday would be the worst for the district.

Thunderstorms are also forecast for the west of the South Island, especially in Westland and northern Fiordland.

But easterly parts of the country will see some warm temperatures, peaking at 30C around Hawke’s Bay today and tomorrow.

Road closures

MetService said driving might be hazardous, especially for high-sided vehicles and motorbikes.

Motorists travelling over the Remutaka Hill Road near Wellington and on the Desert Road are being warned to take care because of strong winds.

NZTA said contractors were onsite monitoring wind on the Remutaka Hill Road.

Heavy rain has also closed a number of roads and highways in the South Island.

State Highway 6 near Haast is closed due to slips and trees brought down in the wet weather, but is likely to be cleared soon.

The state highway at Inangahua Junction is also closed due to flooding and high water levels in the Buller River.

A slip at Lake Gunn on the Milford Road, State Highway 94, closed that highway after 8.30am today.

Drivers are advised to check NZTA’s traffic and travel pages for updates.

RNZ