Six days of gales for Hawke's Bay

By Roger Moroney

Gale force winds are set to lash Hawke's Bay for up to six days, with police warning people to take extreme care while travelling during Easter.

WeatherWatch head analyst Philip Duncan said relentless gale-force winds would affect the Bay, Waikato, East Coast and Gisborne. The wild winds are being brought in by tropical storms connected to those hitting Fiji.

Heavy rain could cut off towns in already sodden areas of East Cape, while coastal communities could be affected by huge swells.

"This storm system is literally stretching from here to Fiji ... It's just going to be relentless for the next six days," Mr Duncan said, adding that in already vulnerable areas there was a high risk of landslides and flooding.

The MetService is predicting some heavy belts of rain will deliver up to 20mm in an hour. Rain is expected to continue in the province right through until Monday, although falls are expected to ease from Friday.

Metservice's latest long-range forecast does not expect the first spot of fair weather to emerge until next Tuesday.

While a severe weather warning issued yesterday was focused largely on the ranges and coastal hills south of Napier urban and semi-rural areas are still expected to receive their share.

Police warned people driving throughout the region to take extreme care during the next few days and Hawke's Bay Regional Council engineers yesterday met emergency management officers to prepare.

Emergency management co-ordinator Lisa Pearse said the weather system carried an "element of unpredictability" so it was difficult to accurately assess what it could deliver.

The weather warning indicated up to 160mm of rain could fall in the Gisborne region and up to 140mm in Hawke's Bay.

"People in these areas are advised to watch out for flooded streams and rivers, slips and hazardous driving conditions," a MetService spokesperson said.

The Hawke's Bay Civil Defence Emergency Management Group said it would watch the region's coastal settlements and river communities .

Civil Defence group manager Ian Macdonald said it was uncertain what effect Cyclone Daphne would have on the East Coast.

He said the group was taking advice from MetService and Hawke's Bay Regional Council's science and asset teams to understand the likely impact of rain expected last night until midnight tonight. .

Indications from the regional council are that some of the area's rivers may get up to a one-in-five-year river level. That meant floodwaters were likely to cover areas between stop banks.

River levels will rise and fall quickly, and wet ground will make slips more likely.

"We're expecting significant rain in the ranges from Takapau north, with 110mm to 130mm until midnight tonight , and a further 100mm tomorrow," " Mr Macdonald said. "With this low pressure easterly system, the heavy rain will combine with an onshore swell and could be an issue for our low-lying coastal settlements during high tides."

The swell was predicted to be 4m to 6m south of Kidnappers, 2m-3m at Clifton/Te Awanga, 3m-4.5m at Haumoana to Waipatiki, 1m-3m around Wairoa to Mahia and 4m-6m around Mahanga. It wasn't expected to ease until Saturday.

"We believe that, once again, northern Hawke's Bay will take the brunt of the bad weather," Mr Macdonald said. "We're asking people to watch themselves, their families and neighbours, take appropriate action and be prepared."

He said farmers should consider moving stock from areas that were traditionally flood-prone.

NZ Transport Agency road clearing crews were still at work on clearing up previous slip sites along stretches of SH2 and SH5 and were on alert as the latest rain band arrived.

NZTA's Gordon Hart said the number one priority for the agency was to keep the vital roading network open.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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