Power out, speed limits reduced as Auckland hammered by gale-force winds

Auckland is bearing the brunt of wet and windy weather on Tuesday as severe gales wreak havoc across the region, with gusts of more than 100km/h toppling trees, causing power outages, and prompting warnings for commuters to take extra care on the roads.

The region is under a strong wind watch until 2pm as the wild southwest gusts tear across the city.

Winds were gusting around 80km/h as of 6:30am, but MetService has indicated speeds could reach as high as 110km/h throughout the morning.

Speed restrictions are in place for motorists travelling over the Harbour Bridge, with motorcyclists and drivers of high-sided vehicles urged to take extra caution. Citybound traffic has been reduced to four lanes, instead of the usual five-by-three configuration. 

MetService meteorologist Stephen Glassey told Newshub the entire city is impacted by the wild conditions.

"People should take care, especially if they're planning on heading over the Harbour Bridge."

And Wellingtonians are next in line, with an additional strong wind watch in place for the city and the Kaikōura Coast from 3pm until 10pm.

These live updates have now finished.

11:45am - At least 22 empty containers were toppled earlier this morning at the Ports of Auckland facility in Wiri, a spokesperson for ContainerCo, the company that owns the containers, confirmed to Newshub.

Spokesperson Ken Harris says the company is now thinking about planning for future extreme weather events, noting that wind tunneling is a significant issue.

10:40am - Wind gusts in central Auckland are no longer considered to be severe, the Waka Kotahi New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) said in an update at 10:20am.

However, strong gusts will continue on-and-off throughout the remainder of the morning, it added.

The Harbour Bridge remains in a four-by-four configuration - four northbound lanes and four southbound. 

"Allow extra time for journeys south on State Highway 1," it said.

Up-to-date travel times can be found on the NZTA's website.

10:25am - Vector is warning the public to stay away from an area in Albany after two high-voltage powerlines were downed in the wild weather.

The affected roads are Clemows Ln and Jack Hinton Dr.

"The roads have been closed for safety and work is underway with traffic agencies to undertake repairs," Vector said in a statement.

A stretch of Rosedale Rd between Clemows Ln roundabout and Jack Hinton Dr also remains closed due to the downed powerlines.

A number of areas across the Auckland region have been left without power due to the severe winds, with Counties Power confirming the network on the western side of Franklin and Papakura has been hit particularly hard.

Vector has been responding to outages in Whangaparāoa Peninsula, Torbay, Milford, Birkenhead, Pāremoremo and Murrays Bay in Auckland's north.

Much of Dairy Flat and Helensville, northwest of the city, were also in the dark this morning.

The Vector website shows large swathes of the Te Atatū Peninsula in west Auckland also remain without power.

Other west Auckland suburbs affected by the outages include Massey West, Whenuapai West, Waimauku, Oratia, Laingholm, Titirangi, Huapai and Kumeu.

Power cuts have also been recorded in parts of Westmere, Henderson and Mt Wellington.

In the south, outages have been noted in areas of Otahuhu and Mangere East.

In the eastern suburbs, there were reports of outages in Bucklands Beach, Shamrock Park, Maraetai, and the area south of Beachlands.

In an update at 9:30am, Vector confirmed outages have been reported throughout Auckland, caused by strong wind and rain overnight.

"All possible Vector field staff, as well as extra crews, are working to restore power and respond to outages, faults, and reports of damage to the network," it said

"Please be patient if you are experiencing an outage. Please stay clear of downed lines and call 111."

10:05am - Some updates on the road closures caused by fallen trees across Auckland this morning:

Eastbound lanes, towards Otahuhu, have reopened on Walmsley Rd, however westbound lanes - towards Mangere - remain closed after a large tree was toppled earlier this morning, blocking Walmsley Rd between Mahunga Dr and the SH20 motorway interchange. Westbound traffic should continue to use Bader Dr to access Mangere. Expect delays in the area.

Another fallen tree blocked westbound lanes towards Panmure Bridge in Pakuranga earlier this morning. As of 9:30am, all lanes have reopened on Pakuranga Rd, but motorists are urged to allow extra time as congestion in the area slowly eases. 

A section of Mt Smart Rd between Inkerman St and Selwyn St in Onehunga remains closed after a toppled tree also took down powerlines earlier this morning. The strip of road remains closed while the tree is removed. Motorists are warned to allow extra time for diversions and delays in the area.

9:50am - A section of a major road on Auckland's North Shore has been blocked by downed powerlines.

A strip of Rosedale Rd in Albany - between Jack Hinton Dr and Clemows Ln roundabout - is currently closed after heavy winds toppled the powerlines.

"Avoid this route or allow extra time for diversions and delays in the area," AT said in an update shortly before 9:30am.

9:40am - Train services are almost back to normal in Auckland after a number of issues plagued the rail network earlier this morning due to the wild and windy weather.

Power has been restored on the main line, with Southern Line train services now operating the entire route between Britomart and Papakura.

Eastern Line services are now operating all the way between Manukau and Britomart, and the Onehunga Line is now operating to schedule.

9:30am - In case you missed it, Auckland's Harbour Bridge will remain in a four-by-four configuration on Tuesday morning so the Waka Kotahi New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) can close alternate lanes as required due to the high winds.

Delays are expected for citybound traffic travelling via the bridge on State Highway 1 throughout the morning.

"Safety is our priority and Waka Kotahi will not hesitate to fully close the bridge if that becomes necessary," a spokesperson for the agency said in a statement earlier on Tuesday.

"Motorists are urged to keep within their lane when crossing the bridge, drive to the conditions and look out for our electronic message boards which will indicate further lane closures and reduced speeds."

As of 6:30am, winds were gusting around 80km/h, but MetService has indicated that speeds could reach as high as 110km/h throughout the morning.

With the winds constantly changing, drivers of high-sided vehicles and motorcyclists are encouraged to avoid the bridge and use the Western Ring on State Highways 16 and 18.

"Updates are being provided via the Waka Kotahi Twitter account. Road users should check this or our Journey Planner website before heading out," the spokesperson continued.

"Road users should also be on the lookout for unexpected hazards with downed trees and powerlines affecting the wider transport network.

"Waka Kotahi is actively monitoring the situation with maintenance crews out on the network ready to react."

Speaking to The AM Show earlier this morning, a Newshub reporter stationed near the Harbour Bridge confirmed the winds were "unpredictable".

"I struggled to even stand upright," she said. "I couldn't even close the car door."

9:15am - As wild winds tore through Auckland during the early hours of the morning, a number of startled locals took to Twitter after waking up to the howling gales. Here are some of their reactions:

9am - Stacked shipping containers at a container yard in Wiri have been toppled by the severe winds, some of which reached up to 110km/h overnight.

Approximately 30 shipping containers were blown over at the Ports of Auckland storage facility, a witness told the New Zealand Herald.

It is the same south Auckland freight hub where a worker was killed in June during a freak tornado.

Toppled containers at the Wiri container yarn.
Toppled containers at the Wiri container yarn. Photo credit: Supplied

8:45am - All trains running along the Eastern Line are now terminating at Sylvia Park due to another overhead line issue near Otahuhu.

Scheduled buses are accepting all train tickets and AT HOP cards, AT said.

"Please check train line status on AT mobile app for updates."

8:30am - A Newshub reporter stationed close to the Harbour Bridge said the severe gales were so strong, she "struggled to even stand upright" as she prepared to provide an update on the conditions.

"I couldn't close the car door," she told The AM Show.

She reiterated that the Waka Kotahi New Zealand Transport Agency has made it clear it won't hesitate to close the bridge to northbound and southbound traffic if the gusts exceed a certain threshold.

Meanwhile, Southern Line trains are now operating between Britomart and Penrose after another overhead line issue at Otahuhu Station resulted in the suspension of all southern services earlier this morning.

8:20am - A fallen tree ripped from its roots in central Auckland.

Power out, speed limits reduced as Auckland hammered by gale-force winds
Photo credit: Newshub

8:15am - A section of Walmsley Rd in Favona remains closed after a large tree was toppled by the severe gales overnight, with powerlines affected by the fall.

Southbound traffic from the motorway should use the Mahunga Dr exit for access to Favona. Westbound traffic should use Bader Dr to access Mangere. Delays in the area are to be expected, AT said.

8am - Coastal areas to the west of the North Island are most likely to be impacted by the severe gales on Tuesday, with damage and debris expected to hit Auckland's western suburbs.

NIWA principal scientist Chris Brandolino told The AM Show the strong southwest winds will persist across the upper North Island until roughly midday before easing in the afternoon.

"Watch out for debris [and expect] some damage along west coastal areas," he said.

And Wellingtonians are next in line, with strong winds set to batter the region by mid-afternoon and into the evening.

Despite a period of brief respite on Wednesday, "it's going to be a windy week, full-stop", Brandolino said.

"After a brief hiatus tomorrow, winds increase Thursday and really ramp-up again on Friday, there could be some really strong winds - maybe not as strong as we're seeing today for the upper North Island."

7:45am - The Waka Kotahi New Zealand Transport Agency has reminded motorists - particularly those behind the wheel of high-sided vehicles and motorcycles - to take extra care on Auckland's Harbour Bridge on Tuesday morning.

"Extra care is required, especially for high-sided vehicles and motorcycles, for travel over the Harbour Bridge currently. For safety, four lanes in each direction remain in place this morning."

Commuters from the North Shore, Auckland's northern suburbs, are urged to allow extra time for southbound journeys.

7:35am - Fallen trees are also adding to the chaos on Auckland's roads on Tuesday morning, with one toppled tree taking down powerlines in Onehunga.

A section of Mt Smart Rd is now closed, AT said.

"Due to a fallen tree with powerlines affected, a section of Mt Smart Rd, between Inkerman St and Selwyn St, is currently closed. Avoid this route or allow extra time for diversions and delays."

A fallen tree also blocked westbound lanes towards Panmure Bridge earlier this morning, with motorists urged to delay their journeys or allow extra time for diversions.

As of 7:35am, one lane in each direction has been made available through the affected section of Pakuranga Rd and over the Panmure Bridge.

"Allow extra time for delays in the area."

7:25am - Ferry services from Northcote Point in Auckland's north have been cancelled due to the conditions.

"Please be advised that due to weather conditions, all Northcote Point services are cancelled until further notice," AT said in an update at 7:20am.

People are urged to keep up-to-date via the Fullers announcement page

7:20am - The wild weather is now impacting train services for Auckland's commuter belt.

In an update shortly before 7:15am, Auckland Transport (AT) announced the Onehunga Line has been suspended until further notice due to an issue with the overhead line near Te Papapa. 

"Please check Train Line Status on AT mobile app for updates. Use Journey Planner on the website or AT mobile app to see alternative transports."

And trains travelling along the Southern Line are also facing disruptions due to an overhead line issues near Penrose.

As of 7:20am, all Southern Line services from Britomart to Papakura are operating non-stop via the Eastern Line to Otahuhu.

All Southern Line Servcies from Papakura to Britomart will travel via Newmarket.

6:55am - Speed limits have been reduced over the Harbour Bridge, with high-sided vehicles and motorbikes urged to take extra care.

The Waka Kotahi Transport Agency is asking drivers to consider taking the Western Ring Route instead.

Public transport is also impacted by the weather, with Auckland Transport (AT) warning the entire network across the region is affected by fallen trees and power outages. 

"Please expect delays and cancellations on your service," the organisation tweeted.

6:40am - There have been at least 80 weather-related callouts in the last few hours, with power outages recorded in several suburbs across the Auckland region.

Riverhead, Coatesville and Dairy Flat are impacted in Auckland's north, as well as Forest Hill and Birkenhead. Further south, areas of Manukau and Mt Wellington are also in the dark.

Videos and photographs supplied to Newshub show Auckland Airport has been hit hard by the weather, with an awning half-collapsed and torn by the gales. 

The damage at Auckland Airport.
The damage at Auckland Airport. Photo credit: Supplied

A spokesperson for Auckland Airport told Newshub the high winds overnight caused "minor damage" to a covered walkway being constructed in a carpark.

Roadworks and construction sites have been hammered by the weather, with signs blown into the road and fences toppled into the footpath.

A building site in Mt Eden.
A building site in Mt Eden. Photo credit: Newshub