The New Zealand Herald

Lights out

One in six homes in Auckland still without power after massive storm

- Ryan Dunlop

More than 79,000 Auckland homes were last night still without power with more wild weather expected, prompting warnings some could be without power for a further two days.

The loss of electricit­y to one in six Super City households follows a destructiv­e storm that at its peak knocked power out for 180,000 homes across the Auckland region, sending numerous suburbs into complete darkness.

A Vector spokesman warned that more strong winds and thunder predicted for today could affect the ability to restore power and could even cause further outages.

Aucklander­s can expect another battering with MetService predicting overnight lows of 6C and possible thundersto­rms and strong winds during the day.

After 9pm a burst of heavy, possibly thundery rain was forecast to cross the region although the gusts will be a lower intensity than seen during Tuesday’s storm.

A wind watch is in place for Northland, Auckland, Great Barrier Island, Coromandel Peninsula and Waikato from 9 o’clock tonight to 3am tomorrow.

On Tuesday night, hurricanef­orce winds gusting up to 140km/ h blasted Auckland city, with gusts of up to 213km/h recorded at Manukau Heads.

The winds tore roofs from houses and uprooted trees that came crashing down on more than 100 power lines across the region.

Further south, 12 properties in National Park Village on the Central Plateau were declared uninhabita­ble after a tornado swept through on Tuesday morning.

The twister hit about 6.30am and destroyed one house in the village, which is near Mt Ruapehu.

Several other houses were also severely damaged, with roofs and doors ripped off and windows smashed. One house was torn off its foundation­s and dumped several metres away.

Wild weather also knocked out power to 8200 customers in the central and lower North Island on Tuesday, with tornadoes causing major damage around Rahotu in Taranaki, Powerco said.

Last night 1000 properties in the area were still without power.

The Auckland Council and Fire

and Emergency were inundated with thousands of storm-related calls during the wild weather. Last night, the council said all trains and ferry services had been restored.

Insurance providers also noted a surge in calls and claims.

Vero Insurance had already received more than 150 claims, while Tower Insurance said its calls were up 160 per cent on a normal day.

AA Insurance said it received a week’s worth of calls in one day.

Power provider Vector’s head of networks programme delivery, Minoru Fredericks­ens, said the delays in getting power back on was “not as simple as clearing debris”.

Essential services were being restored as a priority, with 75 Vector crews from Auckland and beyond currently out in the field.

Despite the widespread issues, Fredericks­ens said Vector felt prepared and the company had been on storm watch on Tuesday.

Access to affected areas was an issue for restoring power, he said, as some places were very remote and others were obstructed by trees.

It could take hours to remove trees in some areas.

The outage reporting service on Vector’s website and app was overloaded last night, and some people have been unable to report power cuts.

Last night, Ingrid Blyth was armed with a head torch that allowed her to walk around “hands-free” but she was disappoint­ed at the communicat­ion from Vector.

The Kelston local had been without power since 9pm on Tuesday. She described her home in rural Auckland as “dark and chilly” — which was particular­ly rough while she battled a head cold.

Blyth had called Vector twice during Tuesday night but had failed to get through. After spending 25 minutes on hold, at 4am on Wednesday, she gave up. “I don’t know whether I’m going to get power back in an hour, or in a week.”

There was a silver lining for some powerless Aucklander­s, who made the most of free meals being offered to storm-affected locals by South Indian Restaurant chain Satya.

Swamy Akuthota, who manages Satya’s Sandringha­m store, said there was a line of people outside it at 6pm, when the offer kicked off.

The restaurant was full, he said, and droves of people were waiting for takeaway chicken tikka masala, or perhaps some biriyani.

“We wanted to help the people who were suffering because of the storm and need help.”

Auckland Emergency Manage- ment director John Dragicevic­h urged people to look out for their neighbours, check in with friends and family, and make sure they are coping okay.

“This is a time for us all to work together,” he said. “Some people have been without power for almost 24 hours — this means cold water, food hygiene issues and a chilly night without heating.

“If you live next to someone who may be vulnerable, please pop over and check on them.”

If you live next to someone who may be vulnerable, please pop over and check on them. Auckland Emergency Management director John Dragicevic­h

 ?? Picture / Michael Craig ?? Ingrid Blyth’s was one of more than 79,000 Auckland households still in the dark after Tuesday’s wild weather.
Picture / Michael Craig Ingrid Blyth’s was one of more than 79,000 Auckland households still in the dark after Tuesday’s wild weather.
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