Town takes beating as powerful storm hits

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Northwest gales blasted through Oamaru and parts of North Otago yesterday afternoon, leaving a trail of upturned trucks, broken plate glass windows, broken branches and felled trees and power poles and fires caused by arcing power lines.

Waitaki District Council emergency services manager Chris Raine said the strong winds had been forecast.

“At the height of the weather event, northwest gales were recorded in Oamaru at 65kph and gusting up to 85km/h on South Hill,” he said.

“Multiple fires in the Weston area caused by electric power lines arcing and falling on the ground and setting fire to the undergrowth have kept emergency services busy and numerous fallen trees have also closed roads in Weston.

“An old stump burn from two weeks ago at Macraes also flared up again and was extinguished using differs and water from fire appliances.”

Mr Raine also said Smiths City had lost part of it’s roof due to the high winds and a conservatory was destroyed on South Hill.

His message to the community was to stay out of the wind.

“It’s quite dangerous out there,” he said.

There was quite a scene on Eden St, shortly after 3.30pm, when a glass panel of the Lagonda Tea Rooms veranda was blown out and shattered across the footpath.

Waitaki District Council rural fire deputy chief Warren Stringer said it was very lucky no one was standing under it at the time.

Volunteer fire fighters were on hand to clear up the glass, some of which had blown across the road, and make sure the other glass panels were secure.

Oamaru woman Lyn Warrington had a lucky escape when a gumtree narrowly missed hitting her car on Coast Rd, yesterday afternoon.

Her daughter Carol was driving when they suddenly heard a loud noise behind them.

“She looked in the rear vision and saw it come down. We’re in shock…It was half way across the road,” she said.

“We had stopped to look at some donkeys (previously) and that’s really what saved us.”

Principal rural fire officer Steve Couper said it had been a very busy afternoon, but fortunately, as of yesterday afternoon there had been no major incidents as a result of the severe winds.

Winds are expected to ease today but Otago lakes and headquarters could remain affected by heavy rain which has fallen on the divide.

By Jacquie Webby, Jessie Waite and Rebecca Ryan