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Flights disrupted and questions rise as storm belts NZ

February 22, 2018 Headline News No Comments Email Email

New Zealand was recovering this morning from a battering by Tropical Storm Gita, which saw all flights cancelled in and out of Wellington, while the city of Christchurch and the North Island province of Taranaki declared states of emergency and weather experts pondered why a cyclone had headed so far south.

Gita, the remains of the cyclone that flattened Tonga’s Parliament Buildings and did much damage in Samoa, pushed wind speeds in Wellington up to 150 kph – brisk even by the standards of the famously breezy New Zealand capital.

Heavy rain and flooding hit parts of New Zealand. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told reporters the military had deployed in areas likely to be worst hit. Tourists were trapped and residents evacuated in various parts of the country. Landslides closed Takaka Hill Road in the Tasman region and the State Highway north of Wellington was partially closed after seas washed over the road.

Outline of New Zealand at lower right (look hard!) shows Gita’s extent

Qantas gave options for customers holding valid tickets issued on/before 20 February 2018 affected by Cyclone Gita for travel to/from Australia and New Zealand, up to today (22 February 2018), subject to the usual conditions, as here.

Air New Zealand cancelled numerous services on Tuesday, including flights between Sydney and Wellington and between Melbourne and Wellington. Services from Wellington to Sydney and Wellington to Melbourne were also cancelled yesterday (Wednesday).

Air NZ’s precautionary step of cancelling all flights in and out of Wellington Airport on Tuesday afternoon until midnight, left some Australian passengers stranded.

Melbourne resident Charnae Tiquia, on holiday in New Zealand with two friends, told Wellington’s Dominion Post their flight was grounded and there was no flight available for two more days.

“We felt so stressed when we heard the announcement. We all had a bit of a cry, we just want to go home,” Tiquia said.

Air NZ cancelled domestic services to and from Wellington, Hokitika, Nelson and New Plymouth.

Air NZ sent customers SMS notifications to their mobile phones outlining how they could self-manage any changes, as the airline’s contact centre “experienced extremely high call volumes”.

“Customers who no longer require to travel automatically have the option to transfer their booking to another date or hold the fare value in credit for up to 12 months toward future travel.”

Air NZ advised travellers to delay their journeys, as any who chose to start their trips would do so at their own financial risk.

“Air New Zealand will not be liable for any costs associated with disrupted travel should a customer opt to travel as planned. You will need to refer to your travel insurance provider for any incidental costs if your travel plans are disrupted.”

This video gives the atmosphere of the storm – complete with brave surfers still out there riding the waves!

MEANWHILE, the storm seems to bear out a projected climate change scenario listed earlier on the website of NIWA, New Zealand’s National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research.

The “likely poleward shift of mid-latitude cyclones” as a result of climate change is mentioned on the site, with NIWA noting that “more analysis” of the theory is needed.

NIWA, a Crown Research Institute established in 1992, also notes that January 2018 was New Zealand’s hottest month on record (since 1909) using NIWA’s seven-station series.

“Dozens of locations observed their record or near-record high mean temperature for January,” NIWA stated.

Written by Peter Needham

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