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Cyclone Gita update: wind intensifies, more highways closed

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The NZ Transport Agency advises drivers of additional road closures in the North and South Islands and urges people to delay trips until the severe weather has passed. High winds mean that drivers of high-sided vehicles, towing caravans or driving campervans should stay put, well out of the wind.

Recent closures since 5.30 pm today, include:

North Island

  • Sections of State Highway 3 Urenui to Waitara are closed for tree removal.
  • Sections of State Highway 54 Cheltenham to Hunterville is closed due to strong winds.

South Island

  • SH73 (West Coast side of Arthurs Pass/Otira to Christchurch) Jacksons to Kumara Junction – closed due to strong winds and falling trees across highway. This highway may close on the Canterbury side depending on how the wind patterns develop tonight and overnight.
  • SH6 Hokitika to the Haast Pass/Makarora – closed due to strong winds and falling trees. Strong winds through the Whataroa Valley, trees down.
  • Route 70, inland road, to Kaikoura via Waiau and Mt Lyford – closed with the Mason River rising rapidly at the Whalesback slip area. Kaikoura is effectively isolated until this road or SH1 reopens. Route 70 will be assessed first thing in the morning to see if the upper route can be opened to traffic. SH1 north and south of Kaikoura will also be updated after 10 am.

Earlier closures:

  • SH6 from Hokitika to Franz Josef was closed at 4pm due to strong winds and will remain closed overnight.
  • SH6 from Westport to Rapahoe (north of Greymouth) was closed earlier today due to flooding and strong winds. The road will remain closed overnight, with a further assessment to be made tomorrow morning.  At least one campervan has been reported tipping on this road and all campers are encouraged to stay put for the night out of the wind.
  • SH60 from Umukuri Road, Riwaka to Takaka, Tasman District, was also closed just after 4pm due to fallen trees across the highway, slips and flooding at the turnoff to Kaiteriteri and Riwaka. Takaka Hill is closed due to multiple slips.
  • SH1 north and south of Kaikoura remains closed due to heavy rain and the risk of slips and rockfalls.  The highway will be reassessed in the morning.

 All drivers travelling from Picton to Christchurch need to take the Lewis Pass route via Waipara and St Arnaud.

SH6 Rocks Road in Nelson remains open, and is being monitored closely. Wind is increasing in the area and conditions will be assessed throughout the evening. The road will be closed if conditions deteriorate eg storm surges either side of high tide later tonight (high tide is at 2 am Wednesday).

Drivers are urged to delay travel if possible until the heavy rain and strong winds have passed. High winds are especially challenging for drivers of caravans, campervans, high sided vehicles and motorbikes.

NZ Transport Agency Senior Journey Manager Neil Walker says driving conditions will be difficult in affected areas, and more roads may be closed at short notice for safety reasons, with the possibility of slips, rockfalls, flooding and coastal inundation.

Drivers are urged to keep a close eye on the latest road conditions and MetService forecasts before travelling.

“We’re working closely with MetService, local authorities, and the Civil Defence network in preparation for any impacts on the transport network and we’re planning for the likelihood of road closures.”

If delaying travel is not an option, it’s important that motorists drive to the conditions during severe weather:

  • Reduce driving speeds
  • Increase following distances
  • Be alert to the possibility of surface flooding, fallen trees and debris

“Vehicles need three times more stopping distance in wet, while high-sided vehicles and motorbikes are more susceptible to tipping over in high winds.

“The Transport Agency wants everyone to be safe on the roads during Gita, so it’s important to keep updated on the latest forecasts and travel information before deciding to travel.”

All current road closures and warnings will be updated in real time during the storm event at http://www.journeys.nzta.govt.nz/traffic (external link)(external link), and drivers can also call 0800 44 44 49 for 24/7 updates on road conditions, closures or delays.

The latest severe weather information is available at www.metservice.com/warnings/severe-weather-warnings (external link)(external link). For emergency and disaster updates visit www.civildefence.govt.nz(external link)(external link)

Social media updates

For Central North Island

For Wellington

For South Island

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