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Wellington severe weather warning - motorists advised to take care

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The NZ Transport Agency is urging drivers to plan ahead and take extra care to stay safe on the roads with strong winds forecast for the Wellington and Wairarapa regions over the next two days.

Metservice has issued a severe weather warning for the Wellington region with northwest gales gusting up to 160 km/h in exposed places from Wednesday evening till mid-morning Thursday. Winds of this strength will impact on roads and make driving conditions hazardous. As conditions can change rapidly, we’re urging people to check the latest weather and road updates before they start their journey,” Mark Owen, NZ Transport Agency says.

“People travelling in and around the Wellington and Wairarapa region this evening and tomorr morning should be aware that winds are expected to really pick up this evening, with the strongest gusts coming in the early hours of Thursday morning. We’ll have contractors on stand-by to close the Rimutaka Hill Road if necessary. The electronic signs on both sides of the Rimutaka Hill will be activated if the road is closed,” Mr Owen says.

Caution is also advised around State Highway 58 and Pauatahanui, with strong gusts expected around 7am on Thursday morning.

Motorists should drive to the conditions, including reducing speeds if necessary. Motorcyclists and drivers of heavy or high vehicles are advised to take extra care, and if possible delay travel in high wind conditions.

For information on the latest driving conditions, go to the Traffic and Travel map (www.nzta.govt.nz/traffic(external link)) on the Transport Agency’s web page, or phone 0800 4HIGHWAYS (0800 44 44 49) and between 6am and 7pm check www.facebook.com/NZTAwgtn(external link) and www.twitter.com/NZTAwgtn(external link)

Check the MetService severe weather warnings www.metservice.com/warnings/severe-weather-watch(external link) for updates.

For the latest information on impacts on public transport visit www.metlink.org.nz(external link)

As there may be impacts on local roads and services, check your local Council’s website and Facebook for local updates, as well as the Wellington Region Emergency Management office’s Twitter and Facebook https://twitter.com/WREMOinfo(external link)  and www.facebook.com/WREMOnz/(external link)

The Transport Agency has advice for driving in high winds, particularly for those with high-sided vehicles, towing trails or caravans, or riding motorcycles.

There are three potential problems to be aware of if you're driving in high winds:

You can be blown off course

Keep both hands on the wheel, particularly if you're being buffeted by the wind or the slipstreams of other vehicles and anticipate stronger winds and gusts on exposed stretches of road or when passing high-sided vehicles.

It's important to keep your speed down too. The faster you're travelling the further off-course you're likely to drift in a sudden gust before you get the vehicle back under control.

Other vehicles can be blown into your path

High-sided vehicles and caravans are most affected by high winds but sudden gusts can blow any vehicle off course. Keep your distance from other traffic and take particular care around cyclists, motorcyclists and horse-riders.

If you break down on the motorway or on any busy road in gusty weather it's important to bear in mind that trucks and other high-sided vehicles could be blown off course suddenly and may veer onto the hard shoulder. It's safer to move to a safe location away from the vehicle rather than wait in the car to be rescued.

There could be trees or other debris in the road

Inevitably, some trees or branches will come down when winds are high. If you see small branches in the road there could easily be a tree or large branch on the road around the next bend. Keep your speed down and drive with care.

Trees can partially fall and hang above the road, sometimes above the sweep of the headlights, making them very difficult to spot.

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