Wellington Scoop

Storm damages south coast roads; praise for volunteers who helped with emergency

Twitter photo by Phil Reid

News from Wellington City Office of the Mayor
Early inspections have indicated that some of the infrastructure on Wellington’s south coast – between Owhiro Bay and Moa Point – has been battered overnight by huge swells off Cook Strait. This includes damage to the seawall at Island Bay and the seaside roads which have been scoured and covered in large amounts of debris deposited on the seaside roads. There has been extensive damage caused by trees, downed power lines and slips, with the south of Wellington being hit particularly hard.

“The South Coast is looking like a bombsite – with roads uplifted and debris strewn everywhere. Despite this we have now managed to open the coastal road between Houghton Bay and Island Bay. The coastal road between Island Bay and Owhiro Bay is badly damaged and still remains closed although crews are out and working on it,” said civil defence controller Bruce Pepperell.

Wellington Mayor Celia Wade-Brown has praised the workers and volunteers who have toiled in treacherous conditions overnight to help the Wellington area get through the southerly storm.

Mayor Wade-Brown, who is at the Wellington Regional Emergency Management Office in Thorndon, says many people involved in the emergency services and civil defence have described the winds as probably the worst to hit the area since the Wahine storm in 1968.

“Workers have been out clearing roads and trees and getting power back on – and they have been working in truly tough and dangerous conditions. I thank them for their huge efforts overnight.

“Our civil defence volunteer response teams – from Wellington, Lower Hutt, Upper Hutt, Porirua and Victoria University – have also been doing sterling work to help residents around the area overnight.”

Wellington City Council’s customer contact centre, tel 499 4444, received more than 400 calls for assistance overnight.

Mayor Wade-Brown urges residents to continue to call their local councils to report damage. “We want to know as much as possible about trees down, slips and other damage around the area. Residents are very valuable as our eyes and ears.”

While Wellington City Council is running its usual rubbish and recycling collection service today, Mayor Wade-Brown asks residents, if possible, to not put their rubbish and recycling out. “It is likely to end up being blown all over the neighbourhood.”

Mayor Wade-Brown urges residents to “take care out there. It is likely there will be a lot of damage that will become obvious during the day. If at all possible, people should think about delaying trips or even staying home.”

News from NZ Police
Due to the high safety risk to anyone working during the storm, a number of councils and power companies in the Wellington region have had to stop their staff carrying out any further repairs or road closures.

Police wish to reiterate the need for the most extreme caution when driving through any city streets in any of the Wellington cities as there are no guarantees that all road blockages and power line issues have been attended to or clearly marked.

Any fallen lines encountered should be reported to council but must be treated as live not matter what the circumstances.

Earlier news from Wellington City Council
The Wellington Regional Emergency Management Office opened its Thorndon headquarters last night as the southerly storm continued to batter the region. The Wellington Region Civil Defence Controller, Bruce Pepperell, says emergency services and council contractors were flat out dealing with fallen trees, flying roofing iron and other wind-related problems.

“We have opened to keep an overview of where the problems are – and to direct resources where necessary. At the moment we are not considering any formal civil defence activation.”

Mr Pepperell says the Porirua and Hutt City Emergency Operations Centres have also opened.

Updates at 10.30pm:

* There are still multiple power outages around the region – including Lower Hutt, Wainuiomata, Miramar, Johnsonville, Makara, Porirua, Titahi Bay and Whitby – about 25,000 customers are without power and in some cases the power will be off until at least the morning.

* Ohariu Valley is cut off from Wellington City by fallen trees blocking Ohariu Valley Road

* Swells of up to 10 metres have been reported in Cook Strait – and with high tide expected at about 1am tomorrow, there are concerns about possible damage to property and roads along Wellington’s south coast.

* Driving conditions around the region are treacherous – and motorists are urged to stay off the roads unless absolutely necessary.

* Middleton Road, between Johnsonville and Churton Park, has been closed after at least six big macarocarpa trees have fallen on to the roadway. One tree has fallen on a car.

UPDATE from Wellington City Council
The Wellington Regional Emergency Management Office (WREMO) will keep a watching brief on the continuing response to the severe southerly storm that lashed the area overnight.

The Wellington Region Civil Defence Controller, Bruce Pepperell, says councils and utilities are now working hard to get things back to normal as the wind dies down.

“I know that big efforts are under way to get power back on to more than 25,000 customers around the region and that work to restore the rail commuter network is also under way.”

Council contractors are working hard to clear downed trees from roads all over the region. Middleton Road in Johnsonville and the road access to Makara are considered priorities.

“Our problem is that some very big trees have come down overnight and they will take a lot of work to remove.”

Work is also starting on a cleanup of the seaside roads on Wellington’s south coast – particularly the Esplanade, between Island Bay and Owhiro Bay, which was severely damaged by huge waves.

Wellington City Council’s acting Civil Defence Controller, Neville Brown, says he expects that stretch of road to be closed for at least another 24 hours – and that its full repair may take some weeks.

In the meantime, the number of people following the WREMO Facebook page has more than doubled overnight – to almost 10,000 ‘likes’. Some postings have been viewed by more than 60,000 Facebook users. People can keep up-to-date with the latest information on the storm by liking WREMO at facebook.com/WREMOnz