Ferry Adrift, Trees Down: Storm Unleashes Fury on Aotea

Aotea/Great Barrier Island residents are rallying together and picking up the pieces today after a ferocious storm ripped through the motu over the past 24 hours.

The storm, which brought howling winds, torrential thunderstorms, and hail, uprooted trees, tore boats from their moorings, and left many islanders shaken.

“It certainly blew. We had gale-force winds, thunder, lightning, and hail—pretty full on.”, Local board chair Izzy Fordham commented.

“All things considered, we got off quite lightly with the storm.” she added.

“The wind was unreal,” recounted one Kaitoke resident, describing the house creaking and swaying amidst the onslaught. “We were worried we’d blow away.”

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A Schooner Bay resident echoed the sentiment, calling it “the worst weather we have experienced in 20 years!”

The storm’s fury was evident in Shoal Bay, where residents awoke to find the Golden Rose ferry, a vital lifeline for gas and freight, adrift, but perched on the shore, thankfully upright.

Do you have pics of last night’s storm, or more details? Email editor@aoteagbi.news

NIWA reported gusts of up to 130 km/h at Mt Heale Hut yesterday evening. Images submitted to AoteaGBI.news show trees downed, with one narrowly missing a house. Another massive tree came down at Mulberry Grove, with a passerby commenting, “That is huge. Lucky it missed the store.”

Fordham lamented the loss of a significant tree in the north, noting, “One of our majestic pohutakawas in Okupu tumbled, which is really sad when you consider the age of those trees.”

Many were out early to clear fallen branches from their driveways to head to work. Pensioners were seen declining help with chainsaws, getting down to the mahi. “It’s the Barrier way,” one added.

Fordham praised response teams saying, “Hats off to our roading crews and police who were out and about early this morning checking on things.”

Yesterday’s storm was part of a broad weather system that swept across central areas of the North Island. Thousands lost power in Auckland, with the harbour bridge closed at one point due to high winds. The combination of high winds and thunderstorms, with a southwesterly that pummeled west and coastal areas of the motu, endured for around 11 hours.

Deluges of hail and high winds preceded yesterday’s thunderstorms. Photo / Supplied

Earlier on Wednesday, the Sealink Ferry sailing was canceled and rescheduled for Saturday. An Island Aviation flight was diverted to Whangārei due to poor conditions at North Shore Airport. Later in the afternoon, several additional flights to and from the island were canceled.

Even regional flights from Air NZ were rescheduled due to the poor conditions, with several Air NZ aircraft struck by lightning and high winds proving frustrating for ground staff at the country’s busiest airport.

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Today looks to be more civil, with the MetService having lifted all weather watches and warnings across the North Island. The system is now traveling across the lower South Island, with heavy rain and strong wind watches issued for the West Coast and Queenstown Lakes regions.

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