Respite for Wellington after battering


Strong winds and rain buffett Evans Bay as storm conditions hit the capital, Wellington, New Zealand, Saturday, Septmeber 08, 2012.

Gales that thrashed the New Zealand capital, cancelling flights and causing havoc across the region, have eased just in time for the All Blacks Test match against Argentina on Saturday.

The northwesterly winds pounded much of the southern North Island and northern South Island overnight and intensified on Saturday morning, weather forecasters said.

Sections of roofing iron on a building on Wellington's waterfront were ripped off and a window blew out of the Amora Hotel on Wakefield Street in the central city. Trees were reported down in the southern suburbs and the fire service responded to about 80 calls.

Wellington waterfront's rugby fanzone was shut down ahead of the Test due to the poor forecast.

A number of regional flights had been cancelled or diverted and other services were delayed, according to Wellington Airport information.

Passengers on board a Jetstar flight described being terrified as their plane made two failed landing attempts in the gales, Fairfax reports.

The US Ambassador to New Zealand, David Huebner, wrote on Twitter that his Lower Hutt property had been battered by "ferocious" winds which had even blown his garden "cow" over the neighbour's fence.

Rimutaka Hill, which connects Wellington and Wairarapa, was closed for several hours due to high winds and a caution remains in place for motorists using the road. head analyst Philip Duncan said the first spring storm of the season had pounced, making for dangerous conditions outdoors.

Severe gusts up to 150 kilometres an hour in exposed places were expected to continue until Saturday evening.

"Wellingtonians are used to gales but today is a day when people should avoid being outside if possible, especially around trees and powerlines," Mr Duncan said.

A Metservice severe weather warning is in place across much of the central and lower North Island and South Island where bursts of heavy rain and thunderstorms are expected until at least Sunday.

Further northwesterly gales are set to batter Wellington and Wairarapa on Sunday but these are not expected to be severe.