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Wild winds force hill road closure

Ryan Teahan takes a laid-back approach to the wait. PHOTO/PAM GRAHAM

STAFF REPORTERS

Winds gusting 150kmh closed the Remutaka Hill for four hours on Thursday afternoon, frustrating those whose travel plans were disrupted.

The road was closed from 12.45pm until 4.45pm.

When the New Zealand Transport Agency advised it was open again it warned high-sided vehicles and motorcyclists to take care.

Martinborough businessman Conor Kershaw was on his way to Wellington to visit his mother, who is terminally ill in hospital, when his journey came to a halt. He was stranded in Featherston along with many others, and described the scene as “a whole lot of frustrated people at the bottom of the hill”.

Kershaw said he could understand restricting high-sided vehicles from crossing the hill in gusting weather, but it was unnecessary to stop all traffic and cause “major disruption”.

He said high winds were nothing new and locals were used to driving the Remutaka Hill Rd in gusting conditions.

One couple who commute daily from Carterton to Wellington were leaving their workplace in Wellington around 3pm and hoping they would be able to get home.

They waited in the queue at the bottom of the Wellington side of the closed hill road, but were prepared to take a detour that would add about three hours to the commute.

A Metservice spokesman said the strongest recorded wind gust at the hill summit on Thursday was 150kmh. He said the average wind speed for most of the day was “just below 100kmh”.

The wind had “eased off considerably” when the hill was declared reopened.

Ryan Teahan, a nurse heading to Wellington to do a night shift, said there had better be rocks on the road when it reopened.

He waited from 1pm and took his dogs for a walk to kill some of the time.

“The wind is no worse than normal,” he said. “This is ridiculous.”

Tom Doyle from Martinborough was weighing his chances of still being able to meet a friend and catch an international flight to go hiking in Nepal.

He had to be in Wellington by 6.45pm to catch a domestic flight to connect with a flight to Singapore and was travelling with children Grace and Luca.

Matariki Roche and Kelsey Lee were waiting in the queue which was backed up 3km at 3pm. They had phones and other devices to keep them up-to-date with what was happening.

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