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By Ana Nicolaci da Costa

WELLINGTON (Reuters) - Severe wind, rain and snow caused flight disruptions, road closures and power outages across New Zealand on Thursday, when the South Pacific island nation was hit by a storm carrying gales of up to 160 km an hour (100 mph).

The southerly gales rattled the capital, Wellington, as the storm moved north towards Auckland, New Zealand's largest city.

More than 10,000 properties on the North Island were hit by power cuts, several highways were shut and ferries that travel across the Cook Strait between the North and South islands were suspended because of towering waves, domestic media reported.

"Damaging southerly winds continue until tonight ... before gradually easing tomorrow morning," meteorologist Tom Adams said on the New Zealand meteorological service's website.

"Wellington has already seen gusts of 160 (kph) ... earlier today, and Cook Strait recorded mean wind speeds of 130 km/hr and 11-metre (36 feet) waves this morning," he said.

Severe weather warnings were issued earlier on Thursday, and media reported that motorists stuck on one North Island highway had to be rescued.

New Zealand has suffered severe weather in recent months, with a cyclone in April causing one fatality and forcing authorities to evacuate seaside areas and close schools.

(Reporting by Ana Nicolaci da Costa; Editing by Paul Tait)

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