Cyclone Wati lashes out at North Island

By Anne Beston

It may have lost most of its punch but the leading-edge of ex-tropical cyclone Wati brought wild and stormy weather over much of the North Island yesterday.

Ahead of what is now a low pressure system, rain and strong winds lashed the upper North Island and temperatures plummeted in Auckland from last week's 20C-plus average to 16C by afternoon.

In Northland, Kerikeri High School students were stranded near Whangaruru on Northland's east coast after being unable to cross the rising Punaruku Stream, 33km north of Hikurangi.

The 25 students and two teachers were safely across the stream by early evening with no reported injuries, said Whangarei police inspector Gavin MacDonald.

Auckland had one of its wettest days since late January with gusting winds which brought down a tree branch on a car at Meadowbank.

Remuera resident Alan Storey had just parked and locked his car in the Meadowbank Foodtown carpark when he heard a crash and turned round to see the branch of a eucalyptus tree smashed onto its roof.

"I was about 10 seconds away and there it was all over the car," he said.

The front windscreen shattered and the roof was badly dented but Mr Storey said he believed he would have survived had he been inside.

"I think I would have been okay but there was a lot of shattered glass, it would have given me a bit of a fright."

Gale force winds up to 140km/h were recorded at Cape Reinga in the afternoon. Up to 50mm of rain fell in the 24 hours to 4pm yesterday in Whangarei, with 100mm falling in Kaikohe.

MetService weather ambassador Bob McDavitt said the remains of what was tropical cyclone Wati would bring rain and winds to most of the North Island this week with the centre of the low expected to cross northern New Zealand on Tuesday or Wednesday and bring a strong southwest or southerly flow.

Some thunderstorms were possible in the North Island today, he said.

MetService last night upgraded its weather warning for the Bay of Plenty, saying up to 100mm of rain was expected from the early hours today until this evening. Overnight last night, up to 90mm of rain was forecast for the Coromandel Peninsula.

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