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Region relatively unscathed as high winds rage

A fallen tree that blocked State Highway 2 outside Greytown. PHOTO/BEN LAKOMY

‘A pretty crazy’ close shave

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Ben Lakomy knows how important it is to keep his eyes on the road after narrowly escaping a falling gum tree on the way to work on Monday morning.

He was conscious of the strong wind howling across State Highway 2 near Greytown at about 8.15am.

“But the first thing that alerted me to anything was a lot of dust coming across the road from one spot.”

The dust was from the wind catching the tree’s roots as they uplifted along the straight section of road before Greytown.

“I was watching that, so it took me a moment to realise a big tree was tipping over . . . then the next thing a whopping great big gum tree came down.

“It was literally in front of me and I managed to brake really hard and swerve around it.”

Ben Lakomy after he narrowly missed being struck by a falling tree on Monday morning. PHOTO/BECKIE WILSON

Mr Lakomy had to swerve on to the south-bound lane to avoid being caught under the tree.

He was thankful there was no oncoming traffic.

“It all happened so quick, it was okay once I realised I was fine – it was quite exhilarating.

“It was a pretty crazy thing to happen.”

The fallen tree was a large blue gum tree with many large branches.

“If it was one massive tree trunk I would have been a goner,” he said.

Mr Lakomy, who is a SPCA senior animal welfare inspector based in Masterton, said it was lucky he had no animals in the back of the ute.

He drives the road from South Wairarapa to Masterton most days with his cruise control set to 100km/h, he said.

While only the tip of the tree struck the left side of the ute’s bonnet, Mr Lakomy said the truck would have been badly damaged if he did not react as quickly as he did.

“All I would just say is how important it is to keep your eyes on the road.

“If anything like that happens and you’re distracted, you are not likely to be able to respond to it.”

Mr Lakomy and other motorists directed traffic before police and fire crews arrived.

Greytown senior station officer Harry Howard said the south-bound lane was down to 30km/h.

Firefighters helped remove some of the debris, but the tree was so big that contractors were called to clear the road, he said.

High winds down trees

Wild weather cut power to hundreds of Wairarapa properties and fire crews were rushed off their feet, with trees downed and garden structures blowing away yesterday.

Wind gusts reached 130km/h on the Remutaka summit around midnight on Sunday, and 105km/h in Masterton.

The fallen tree on Loop Line.

The highest gust recorded in the area was 154km/h at Cape Turnagain.

According to Metservice, the wild winds are sticking around.

Fulton Hogan’s Masterton-based maintenance manager, Matt Chapman, said he was aware of a tree down overnight Sunday in Opaki, and a line down in South Wairarapa.

But he said all in all, the relatively low level of damage overnight was “quite surprising”.

“I got into the office this morning and thought the roof was going to fly off.”

He said teams were checking trees in at-risk areas.

“We expect we might see more of those trees down during the week.”

More than 500 properties were without power throughout the day.

Properties were affected in Solway [279], Opaki [184], Papawai [50], Carrington [58], and in Mauriceville [47].

In Masterton, a tree fell just short of the road on Loop Line about 7.30am.

The section’s owner was looking on the bright side.

He said removing the line of trees out front of the property was on his to do list – and the high winds had made a start for him.

The Greytown fire brigade also tended to downed power lines near the old cheese factory on Bidwills Cutting Rd.

At least two trees were brought down in Carterton on Monday, and Masterton firefighters were called out after a cat enclosure and a shed were blown away by strong gusts in Solway.

Metservice meteorologist April Clark said the gusty weather would remain today.



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