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Wild weather lashes New Zealand

Published: 7:50PM Saturday October 13, 2012 Source: ONE News

Wild weather lashing the country has closed a major tourist route and knocked out power to parts of Auckland.

MetService said a "deep, complex low" moving eastwards across the country moving behind a "very strong, moist north to northwest flow" has been responsible for severe gales and heavy rains in many regions.

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The forecaster said heavy rain was continuing on the West Coast of the South Island with spillover into the Canterbury headwaters.

The rough weather prevented about 700 passengers, from the US and Europe, from reboarding the Sea Princess cruise ship in Akaroa Harbour, after they spent the day sight-seeing.

After sheltering in the Akaroa school gymnasium, the ship's operator found them accommodation in Akaroa and Christchurch.

There was also heavy rain in the central high country of the North Island, including Mt Taranaki and the Tararua Range.

Further north, MetService said there was potential for further severe northwest gusts up to 120 kilometres per hour in Auckland, the Coromandel Peninsula and the northern Waikato on Saturday evening.

The rain was expected to clear from the south later on Saturday as the southerlies move north, bringing snow to the hills and ranges.

A heavy snow advisory has been issued for the Canterbury High Country. More than 100 millimetres of rain was expected overall in the ranges of Westland, Buller and Nelson, bringing the possibility of flooding.

'Red Slip'

State Highway 94 from Te Anau to Milford Sound was closed from Hollyford to Chasm after it was blocked by avalanches and a huge landslide overnight on Friday.

The slip brought down rocks as large as 200 tonnes among debris covering at least 200 metres of the road.

The New Zealand Transport Agency closed the road at 4pm on Friday, before the slip, as a precaution.

The slip occurred through the closed section of road, about 2km on the Milford side of Falls creek. It is a location known as "Red Slip", which was last active about 25-30 years ago, according to the NZTA.

Geotechnical experts have been carrying out aerial inspections to help workers clear the debris.

The road is expected to be closed for several days. Most of the visitors in Milford had already left, with a number of cruise ship passengers lifted out by helicopter.

Auckland battered

The weather has also kept emergency services busy in the north of the North Island.

The fire service said it had answered more than 70 weather-related calls between Auckland and Rotorua.

High winds knocked out power lines in some areas and brought trees crashing down on homes and cars.

Several roofs were also damaged by the gale-force winds.

Energy provider Vector said parts of Rodney, Helensville and Greenhithe, north of Auckland City, were still without electricity on Saturday afternoon.

Vector said crews were working in appalling weather to restore electricity.

Parts of west Auckland were also reported to be without power.

Fire service shift manager Scott Osmond said a few buildings in the city centre were also damaged by the high winds, with glass windows blown out in one building.

The winds in the region were expected to ease overnight and Sunday.

Further south, rain was expected to turn to snow around the summit of the Desert Road early Sunday morning.

A wintry blast hit the country in mid-September, and today's storm cell was expected to be bigger than the one in March which tore off roofs and downed trees and powerlines.

Check out the forecast for your area on our weather page.