Wellington: A storm that meteorologists described as being the size of Australia buffeted New Zealand on Friday, prompting severe weather warnings across most of the country.
The official MetService said gale-force winds of up to 130 kilometres (80 miles) per hour were lashing some areas, including the capital Wellington, accompanied by heavy rain, lightning and plunging temperatures.
"Winds of this strength have the potential to lift roofs, topple trees and powerlines and make driving conditions hazardous," it said.
Privately-owned forecaster weatherwatch.co.nz said the storm in the Southern Ocean was one of the largest currently on the planet, with a size roughly equivalent to Australia.
Weatherwatch analyst Philip Duncan said that while the storm`s centre was likely to remain about 1,000 kilometres west of New Zealand, the country would experience extreme weather for three or four days.
Duncan said the winds were likely to come in unpredictable squalls, advising: "These Southern Ocean storms tend to fire up a number of aggressive but fairly short-lived fronts."
He said Christchurch, which was hit by a 7.0-magnitude earthquake two weeks ago, could expect high winds but the city should escape the worst of the weather.