A polar storm caused chaos across New Zealand, shutting schools and the airport in the capital city of Wellington and blanketing the South Island in snow.
Winds gusting to as much as 200 kilometers (124 miles) an hour felled trees and cut power to about 30,000 homes in the capital overnight. Some 8,000 homes were still without power at 2 p.m. today, supply company Wellington Electricity Lines Ltd. said in a statement. The city’s international airport said departures resumed around midday after dozens of flights were canceled due to the wind.
Train and bus services were suspended and a ferry remains stranded in Wellington harbor after breaking its moorings. Waves outside the harbor were measured at 15 meters (49 feet) last night, the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research said. That was probably bigger than the waves that sank the Wahine ferry off Wellington in 1968, killing 51 people, though sustained wind speeds did not match those recorded at the time of the Wahine disaster, NIWA said in a statement.
As much as a meter of snow fell on the South Island as temperatures sank to minus-5 degrees Celsius (23 degrees Fahrenheit) in some areas, said Ramon Oosterkamp, manager of public weather services at the MetService in Wellington.
“The source region for the air is the Antarctic,” he said, adding the storm is not expected to abate until the weekend. “We’re still in the middle of it.”
The storm stretched as far north as Auckland, New Zealand’s largest city, where lightning strikes sent a pine tree crashing through a house last night. No injuries were reported.