State Highway 2 has been closed at Remutaka Hill due to high winds.
Gale-force winds battering the lower North Island have forced the closure of State Highway 2 this afternoon near Wellington.
The Remutaka Hill road has been closed due to blustery conditions hitting Wellington and Wairarapa.
“The route has been subject to a strong wind warning since this morning and has been closely monitored all day,” Waka Kotahi New Zealand Transport Agency said.
“With the winds intensifying, the decision has been made to close the highway for safety reasons.
“The highway’s status will continue to be monitored and reviewed according to the weather conditions. Strong winds are forecast to continue until midnight.”
People travelling between Wellington and Wairarapa should either delay their journey or use the longer detour via the Pahiatua Track between Pahiatua and Aokautere, or Saddle Rd between Woodville and Ashhurst.
The detour will result in significantly longer travel times.
Drivers of motorcycles, trucks, vans, campervans and towing vehicles are being warned to take extra care on the roads, particularly in areas exposed to high winds.
“Drivers also need to be on the lookout for fallen trees and other debris brought down on to roads and highways by the bad weather.
“The Wellington Transport Alliance is monitoring highways across Wellington and Wairarapa, with road crews clearing incidents as they occur.”
RNZ reports that more than 1000 properties in the North Island have lost power as strong winds pummel parts of the country.
Electricity supplier Powerco said the areas most affected range from New Plymouth to Wairarapa and Mt Maunganui, with 1100 properties without power as of 4pm.
A total of 211 homes are without power in Featherston, 55 properties in Pongaroa in the Tararua District and Mt Manuganui, where power is down for 82 customers.
And the strong winds are fanning a vegetation fire in Canterbury this afternoon.
Fire and Emergency said firefighters are working in windy conditions to contain and suppress a hedge fire at a rural property at Charing Cross in the Selwyn District, which is threatening structures.
“The initial report of a hedge on fire was received at 3.50pm. By 4.30pm eleven fire trucks and tankers were at the scene, supported by two helicopters and a command unit.
As of 4.35pm, the fire had extended 200m along the hedge.
Crews were responding from Darfield, Burnham, Hororata, Kirwee, Rolleston, Coalgate, Rakaia and West Melton.
The beginning of spring brings heavy rain and blustery winds for most of the South Island and the bottom half of the North Island.
MetService forecaster Aidan Pyselman said north-westerly gusts of over 200km/h were recorded in the Canterbury high country overnight.
“It is also very windy in and around Wellington, with gusts of 120-130km/h on the Remutaka summit,” he said.
The wind still remains high in many of the more populated low-lying areas across the South Island.
“Winds of 50-60 knots, or 90-110km/h, have been recorded across Wellington, Kaikoura, Blenheim, Stewart Island and coastal Wairarapa,” Pyselman said.
“It’s playing out how we expected,” he said. “It’s widespread wind across southern and central New Zealand.”
Pyselman also said there has been widespread rain across the South Island during the past 12 hours.
The biggest numbers are coming out of the Canterbury high country, with 160 millimetres of rain having fallen.
“Arthur’s Pass saw 107mm, while Milford Sound saw 69mm.”
However, the rain spared the bottom half of the North Island.
Orange wind warnings have been issued for Wairarapa, Wellington and the Canterbury high country for late Sunday night, and warnings will expire in Hawke’s Bay, Tararua, Southland, Fiordland and Stewart Island early on Monday morning.
Meanwhile, orange rain warnings for Westland, Buller, Canterbury Lakes and Arthur’s Pass expire later this evening.
Yellow wind watches remain in place for Tasman, the Canterbury Plains and Christchurch until late this evening, as well as for the Kāpiti Coast, central North Island and Otago until early tomorrow morning.
A yellow rain watch remains in place for Nelson Lakes until 10pm tonight.
A heavy swell warning has been issued for the area spanning from the Kāpiti-Porirua Coast to Cape Terawhiti from this afternoon to early Monday morning, with northwest combined waves rising to 4.5 metres on Sunday afternoon, then easing to three metres early on Monday morning.
Road snow warnings are set to come into force this evening on Crown Range Rd and Milford Rd.
Most of the country will see a reprieve tomorrow morning. However, some wind warnings will remain in place for the bottom of the South Island, Pyselman said.
Looking further ahead, there could be more heavy winds and rain to come – classic spring weather.