• Damaging winds are hitting Wellington
• The Rimutaka Hill is closed
• Main routes across the South Island have been blocked
• Power has now been restored to most homes
• Commuters are being told to expect disruptions
• Some flights are leaving Wellington; others are delayed or cancelled
• Gales are expected to lash the south of the country this morning
Damaging winds are pummelling Wellington and much of the country’s South Island.
The Rimutaka Hill is now closed, trees are falling and roofs lifting as severe gales associated with an intense weather bomb bears down on central New Zealand.
More than 400 households were without power for some hours but electricty has now been restored to most homes.
Vital commuter services are affected as trolley buses are taken off the road and all harbour ferry crossings cancelled. Many planes have been delayed this morning.
MetService is warning the wind will peak about 9am in the city with severe gales and gusts of up to 160 kph possible.
The gusts follow severe overnight gales throughout central New Zealand.
A Fire Service spokesman said crews had been called to clear roads in South Wairarapa and Johnsonville after trees blocked lanes.
In Wellington properties needed to have loose tiles and sheets of iron secured by firefighters.
A Korean church in Brooklyn had a tree crash on its roof.
Trolley buses have been taken off the road this morning due to the gale force winds and rush hour commuters are being told to expect disruptions.
Due to high winds this morning in Wellington there will be no trolley buses operating. Please expect disruptions to bus services as a result
— Metlink Wellington (@metlinkwgtn) January 18, 2017
Test trains have been sent out across the rail network and trains were not affected by the strong winds and rain at this stage.
Waves were crashing over the road on the main route to the airport.
The New Zealand Transport Authority issued a warning to motorists about the wind danger if travelling on the Desert Rd today.
STRONG WINDS: #SH1 Waiouru – Rangipo (Desert Road). Take extra care if you are on a motorbike or high-sided vehicle. ^MF
— NZTA Waikato/BoP (@NZTAWaiBoP) January 18, 2017
Heavy rain, which caused surface flooding on several highways throughout the South Island, is expected to ease this morning.