Wild weather lashes country causing lightning strikes, power outages and fierce winds

A spate of severe weather is causing carnage across New Zealand today as lightning strikes, power outages and gale-force winds cause havoc around the country.

Eerie cloud formation as storm brews in Canterbury region. Source: Supplied

This afternoon train services have been suspended between Plimmerton and Waikanae north of Wellington due to a power outage caused by a lightning strike.

Metlink says crews are onsite attempting to fix the fault, and buses are shuttling passengers between Plimmerton and Waikanae, stopping at all stations. It says trains are running to timetable between Wellington and Plimmerton. 

Air NZ flight NZ681 from Wellington to Dunedin had to be diverted to Christchurch this morning after encountering lightning.

In a statement, the airline said passengers were accommodated on alternative services.

University Student, Alice Riley, was on the flight and said the turbulence was so severe several passengers started vomiting.

“There were quite a few people quite sick, no one could get up, the turbulance was so bad," she said. 

"It was kind of like when you have a big jolt but it was constant - the whole way through the flight."

She said the ordeal lasted about forty minutes until the plane landed in Christchurch. 

"The crew were really good though, but it's good to be home," said Ms Riley. 

In the Hawke's Bay region, a campervan was flipped on its side on State Highway 5, blocking the southbound lane about two kilometres south of Te Haroto. 

No one was injured in the incident but police say high winds may continue in the "Windy Gap" on the Napier/Taupo Road. 

In high winds, a caravan has flipped on the Napier/Taupo Road Source: Supplied

Further north, Niwa have advised the Dargaville region to brace for severe weather as a deluge of rain and lightning is forecast. 

Their advice? "When thunder roars, head indoors."

And down south, MetService have issued a road Snowfall Warning for Lindis Pass, Crown Range Rd, Milford Rd as fresh powder blankets the district.

Meanwhile, about 440 Taranaki residents in the township of Okato were left without power when the storm buffeting the country passed through the region.

Powerco Network Operations manager Phil Marsh said strong winds were the likely cause of the outage that happened shortly after 9am.

“Our contractors have been out in the wind and heavy rain checking the network in and around Okato and restoring pockets of supply as each area is cleared for reconnection,” he said.

“We are still investigating the initial cause of the outage but hope to have everyone back on by early afternoon,” he said.

Further up the country, Auckland has been warned to prepare for severe weather as MetService has advised a period of strong winds is expected in the city this afternoon.

Gusts over 70km/h are possible as well as winds that may approach severe gale in exposed places at times.

Vector’s Head of Network Field Services Marko Simunac says Vector is keeping a close eye on the weather and has crews ready to respond to any power outages.

“Our response crews and storm management teams are ready to respond and we are actively monitoring the latest weather advice and our own data on network performance. As always, our objective is to do this as quickly as while ensuring the safety of our crews and the public.

“We remind people to stay away from damaged electrical equipment and report issues by phoning us on 0508 VECTOR,” he says.

Vector’s advice:

•Stay well clear of fallen power lines or damaged electrical equipment and treat them as live at all times.
•Watch out for falling tree branches as these can cause damage to power lines.
•Avoid possible damage to electrical appliances (in the unlikely event there is a power surge when the power is restored) by switching off appliances at the wall.
•Keep a torch and spare batteries handy and ensure that you have at least one telephone that does not rely on electricity for operation.
•Ensure that an alternate fuel is always available for cooking (e.g. gas for BBQ).
•If you have an electric garage door, prepare how you can gain entry to the garage another way so you have access to your vehicle.
•Tie down objects on your property that may be impacted by strong winds (ie: trampolines, BBQ’s and BBQ covers).
•Take extreme care if you are driving in poor weather and delay trips if possible. Do not drive through floodwaters.
•If you are on tank water please ensure you have plenty of bottled water available.
•If a planned outage for network maintenance has been advised in your area over the coming days, be aware this could be rescheduled depending on impacts from the weather
•If life or property is at risk, call 111