- September 13, 2021
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All Lauren Blake could hear was loud banging and crunching noises coming from her yard as severe winds in excess of 100kmh whipped through her North Canterbury home.
Expecting to see a trampoline floating in the wind, Blake was shocked to see instead her 21 square-metre pre-fabricated beauty salon had been blown over as she peered out the window just before 6am on Friday.
“It was just unbelievable, I just couldn’t believe what I was seeing.
“I would’ve never in a million years thought that [it would flip]. I’ve seen large winds out here but nothing on that scale. I was just in shock.”
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Blake was one of many people who bore the brunt of severe winds that battered the south and fanned fires overnight Thursday and early Friday.
Roads were blocked by fallen trees, garden sheds destroyed, and almost 7000 homes were left without power, with up to 800 expecting to have no electricity overnight on Friday.
Parts of Otago and Canterbury appeared to be the hardest hit regions, with emergency services being inundated with wind-related calls beginning about 10pm on Thursday.
Fire crews were also called to a series of blazes sparked by the high winds.
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Blake’s salon was left in disarray from the punishing winds, with furniture and beauty products strewn everywhere.
But she was thankful no-one was hurt and that the salon had not crushed her vehicles, which escaped being damaged by mere centimetres.
The 31-year-old, who started her business Social Beauty from her Oxford home earlier this year, said the damaged studio just added to the pressures already felt from the recent lockdown and level 3 restrictions.
She had not been able to get into the salon to fully assess the extent of the damage as the sliding door was now facing the sky – and to add to the devastation, she is not insured.
“I’m just a new small business and Covid has already hit me pretty hard. It’s just devastating.
“It’s only been two days back open and I was so busy [and] really enjoying being back. But never mind, it’s just the way it is.”
Speaking to Stuff on Friday afternoon, Blake said she was hoping when the winds ease to get a crane to right the salon, and that if she could no longer run her business from it she would work from her home instead.
“I’ll work out of my lounge if I have to.”
She said the support from clients, friends, neighbours and North Canterbury locals had been tremendous.
The gale-force winds that ravaged much of the South Island saw fire crews called into action early.
Overnight, crews from Dunedin and surrounding areas dealt with a fire in forestry on Three Mile Hill on the outskirts of Dunedin, and another at Cape Saunders near Portobello, Fire and Emergency New Zealand (Fenz) spokesman Kevin Barbara said.
Crews then shifted their focus to further north in Otago as well as Canterbury as the front moved up the South Island through Thursday night.
As of 6.30am Friday, Fenz had 30 crews responding to about 10 wildfires from South Canterbury to Hurunui, Barbara said, as well as helping with damaged roofs and a trampoline that was sent flying into a caravan in Ashburton.
The only report of fire damage to structures was two hay sheds in the Fairlie area late on Thursday.
The most significant fire callout was an old slash burn that reignited on farmland in the Glentui area in North Canterbury. At its peak nine crews battled the blaze, but it was largely contained on Friday morning.
MetService meteorologist Mmathapelo Makgabutlane said the severe winds were due to a front moving up the country.
Gusts of 126kmh were recorded at Sugarloaf in Christchurch’s Port Hills early on Friday morning, while Kurow in Otago saw gusts of 124kmh and inland Canterbury and Aoraki/Mt Cook saw winds of 120kmh.
Debris forced the closure of Greendale School south of Darfield, as well as Darfield Primary and High School in Selwyn.
Hororata local Richard Broughton was woken at 5am by his power cutting out and the sound of the wind snapping branches off trees.
“She was blowing really well, blowing stuff against the house and making a lot of noise.”
On Friday morning, six trees were strewn across his property and one was dangling on nearby power lines, though Broughton was able to cut branches off to stop it pulling the lines down completely.
Some of his neighbours, also without power for most of the morning, had been running generators and offering up coffee and food. Power was restored at about 11am.
Makgabutlane said the severe weather was expected to ease later on Friday and throughout Saturday, before a westerly front made landfall on the West Coast.
This front would likely bring periods of heavy rain to the West Coast and may also bring severe gales to the Canterbury Plains and High Country, which could last throughout Sunday and into Monday.
Damage caused by the severe winds left more than 2100 Orion customers in mid-Canterbury, North Canterbury and Christchurch without power on Friday morning.
According to Mainpower, about 4740 homes throughout North Canterbury were also without power, 2000 remaining disconnected as of 5pm and facing an uncomfortable night.
Orion spokeswoman Linda Mcgregor said crews were dealing with 23 separate outages mainly in the Hororata, Darfield and Sheffield areas.
All were due to the high winds that had blown trees and other vegetation onto power lines.
Orion crews had been investigating the outages since first light, and sub-contractors were called in to help.
Work continued until nightfall, but around 800 customers remained without power at 6.40pm, and likely would be overnight.
“We apologise to those customers affected and will get extra crews out at first light tomorrow morning to get their power back on for them as soon we can,” Orion’s infrastructure manager Steve Macdonald said.
Sections of State Highway 7, SH1, and SH77 were closed or blocked on Friday due to fallen trees, but all reopened by 7pm.
SH73 at Arthur’s Pass, was open, but earlier also had a detour in place before Springfield.
In the North Island, the wind blew over a truck and trailer, blocking the southbound lane of State Highway 2 near Mt Bruce at 4.35am. No-one was injured.
A fallen tree was blocking SH2 Remutaka Hill Rd shortly after 6.35am.
Fenz spokesman Mike Wanoa said northern fire crews were busy but not overrun, with 11 wind-related calls in the Wairarapa region since midnight, including downed power lines and unsecured roofing iron in Featherston.
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