Fierce winds batter Queenstown

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A clean-up operation is underway after gale force winds ripped through Queenstown last night leaving a trail of destruction.

The 130kmh gusts battered the town and surrounding areas bringing down power lines, dozens of trees and damaging property.
 
Hundreds of homes were left without power. Utilities firm bosses say all services are likely to be restored by the end of the day (Tuesday).

In Sunshine Bay a roof was torn off a house, while on Queenstown Hill a jet ski was blown down on to a house terrace from a car park above.
 
Residents reported seeing mini twisters spinning across Lake Wakatipu and along nearby streets and fields.
Arthurs Point, Fernhill and Queenstown Hill bore the brunt with downed trees closing roads.
 
Kelvin Heights, Arrowtown, Lake Hayes Estate and Glenorchy were also affected, losing their electricity supply.
 
Arthurs Point resident Lorraine Shand says: “It was scary – quite an interesting night for everyone.
 
“We’ve had three huge pine trees come down in our garden. It was very gusty and noisy. It’s the strongest wind I can remember since I moved here seven years ago.”
 
About two dozen fire fighters from the Queenstown, Frankton and Arrowtown stations were called into action.
 
Queenstown station commander Dion Halmshaw says: “The first call was to a rubbish fire that had spread to trees and was threatening a house in Arthurs Point.
 
“We got called out pretty much every 20 minutes after that. We didn’t get back until the station until midnight.
 
“I’ve never seen Queenstown bay with a swell on it before. There was quite a bit of white water and water whipping up off the lake.
 
“But it was the sheer number of trees that were down – poplars, willows and pine trees – mainly Gorge Road and Arthurs Point.”
 
Utilities firm contractors worked through the night to repair damaged power poles and lines.
 
Delta general manager Adam Fletcher says: “We’ve had about 60 people working since yesterday.
 
“We called in two crews from Dunedin to take over the shift this morning.
 
“The most significant problem is the broken pole in Fernhill, which has taken out Sunshine Bay and Glenorchy.
 
“We have a number of outages in a lot of places across central Otago area.
 
“They are at varying stages of being put back into service. I expect by the close of business today we should be back up.”
 
A 15m catamaran drifted from its moorings at Frankton Arm on the lake and had to be retrieved.
 
Jo Blick, communications officer at Queenstown Lakes District Council, says: “I saw a mini twister from my kitchen window on Poole Lane.
 
“There was a great big line of breakwater and then you could see little water spouts coming off it.
 
“It was quite bizarre.
 
“It should be a couple of days before everything is back to normal.”
 
The strong winds affected much of Central Otago, with Cromwell and Maniototo also badly hit.