Evacuations and homes without power as storms batter country

The wild storm that battered New Zealand overnight has caused widespread flooding, resulting in hundreds of evacuations, thousands left without power, and chaos on the roads.

As contractors work to shore up breached riverbanks and downed powerlines, the high winds and heavy rains appear to be easing.

Rain radar shows the worst affected areas around New Zealand. Image / Metservice
Rain radar shows the worst affected areas around New Zealand. Image / Metservice

However, it's left mayhem on the wet highways ahead of Easter holiday weekend, with multiple road closures and several nasty crashes.

Westland District Council early this morning declared a state of emergency in the Franz Josef and Waiau region after a night of extreme flooding.


More than 180 people, mostly tourists, were evacuated in Franz Josef after the Waiho River burst its banks and the flooding swept through several hotels including the Scenic Hotel where staff accommodation was under water.

The Top 10 Holiday Park campsite on the banks of the Waiho River was swamped by the floodwaters.

Emergency rock work is underway this morning to stem the Waiho riverbank's breach.
Welfare centres have been set up in the Franz Josef township and the Red Cross has delivered supplies from Christchurch.

Flooding has also disrupted the town's water supply.

Nelson Marlborough received the most rain overnight, with 240mm, and it was expected to continue throughout the morning.

Storm damage at Okahu Bay in Thursday morning. Photo / Greg Bowker
Storm damage at Okahu Bay in Thursday morning. Photo / Greg Bowker

While the skies are clearing, rain receding, and the majority of rivers are dropping in the Tasman District, it will be at least mid-morning before rivers recede to safe levels.

There is still a large amount of surface flooding throughout the Riwaka and Golden Bay areas causing road closures.

Riwaka was the worst hit, with "a small number of homes" being evacuated after flooding from the Riwaka River.

A Civil Defence Centre has been set up at the Motueka Recreation Centre.

Wild winds also battered the upper North Island leaving scores of households without power.

Severe Weather Forecaster Paul Mallinson said Auckland and Northland recorded gusts of 120km/h.

At its worst there were 18,000 customers without power in Auckland.

Auckland Civil Defence say they monitored the storm overnight and kept in touch with Metservice, emergency services, transport agencies and utilities across the region.

High winds peaked in the early hours of the morning, bringing down some trees and branches which have been dealt with by the council, and prompting around 90 callouts from emergency services - Police and Fire - but not causing widespread damage.

Auckland Civil Defence Head of Emergency Operations Aaron Davis said there may still be minor travel disruption on the roads.

"While it's been a wild lead-up to the holiday weekend, we expect the weather to settle down later today. Nevertheless, drivers should remain vigilant and take extra care on the roads," he said.

Top Energy spokeswoman Philippa White said high winds and heavy rains had caused fallen trees in power lines to knock out power to around 6000 Northland homes.

There are currently still about 1000 homes without power, with the worst hit areas being rural ones around Kaitaia, Kaikohe, Moerewa and Kawakawa.

Flooding in Franz Josef. Photo / Nicolaas Bester
Flooding in Franz Josef. Photo / Nicolaas Bester

Line crew are "working as quickly as we can under the circumstances" to restore power.
Northern Fire shift manager Dallas Ramsay said crews attended more than 70 weather-related call-outs throughout Northland and Auckland overnight clearing trees fallen across roads, arcing power lines and securing lifting roofs.

Mt Wellington, Epsom and the North Shore bays are all badly hit with power outages and have been for at least two hours.

Bay of Plenty Civil Defence Emergency Group is continuing to monitor conditions as severe weather warnings remain in place for region.

With intense rain pockets of up to 40mm per hour expected this afternoon, they are urging the community to remain alert and be extremely careful on the roads.

At this stage, all roads are open and no reports of flooding have come in.

"Mostly it's just really wet out there. This rain isn't over yet though and we encourage people to keep up-to-date with weather reports", Group Controller Clinton Naude said.

WeatherWatch says the rough weather has mostly eased in Auckland this morning.
There is still the odd isolated heavy downpour, however.

These photos were taken 2km out of Whitianga in the Coromandel, south towards Tairua. Photo / Clive Yeoman
These photos were taken 2km out of Whitianga in the Coromandel, south towards Tairua. Photo / Clive Yeoman

The strong gales seen overnight have now mostly eased off.

WeatherWatch head weather analyst Philip Duncan said the strong winds overnight in Auckland were caused by a large high pressure system which pulled down subtropical air combining the two.

"There is no deep low pressure or storm system near New Zealand - we're just in the squash zone - where the isobars squash up on the weather map - on the back of a very intense high pressure system to New Zealand's east."

At the height of the overnight storm, there were around 18,000 customers without power in Auckland.

High waters cause erosion in Franz Josef. Photo / Nicolaas Bester
High waters cause erosion in Franz Josef. Photo / Nicolaas Bester

Severe gale force winds hit a sustained wind speed of 100km/h for over an hour last night with gusts to 110km/h.

Vector says the weather has cleared sufficiently to give crews a chance to work on the faults this morning after conditions were too dangerous in some instances last night. A further 7400 customers have had power restored since 7.30am.

There are now 5300 customers remaining without power.

"Each storm has its unique characteristics and this weather event has proven no different. Instead of a few larger outages, this storm has produced smaller, localised outages," a Vector spokesman said.

Coromandel and Bay of Plenty has been warned to brace for a deluge as the storm continues to lash the North Island. MetService has issued severe warnings with heavy rain expected for Coromandel Peninsula, Bay of Plenty, Rotorua, Taupo, Tongariro National park and Gisborne.

Localised thundery downpours could peak with rain falling at 30mm to 4mm an hour in the worst hit areas.

Northeasterly gales blasting many parts of the North Island - gusting 120-130 km/h in Taihape, Whanganui, northern Manawatu and Wellington this morning - are expected to ease this afternoon. However, strong wind warnings remain in place for those areas.

- NZ Herald

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