The worst appears to be over for Rotorua and the Bay of Plenty.

The centre of Cyclone Cook lay close to Rotorua at 8pm tonight and is expected to move southwards reaching Wairarapa in the early hours of tomorrow morning, MetService said.

Heavy rain has eased over the Bay of Plenty and the severe weather warnings there were now lifted, it said.

Rotorua Fire Brigade senior station officer Colin Rolfe said his crews had only had one storm-related call tonight.

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"We're currently out in the Mamakus and the weather is worse out here than it was in Rotorua," he said.

"We have been out to a car accident on State Highway 5, but it was a no injury accident. The others were a false alarm and a chimney fire."

A police media spokeswoman confirmed a van had come off the road near the Dansey Rd intersection on State Highway 5.

"There was no one still inside the vehicle, and it wasn't blocking the road," she said.

Ngongotaha Fire Brigade chief Francis Boag said his crews had been to four call outs over the course of the evening and were currently clearing fallen trees on the eastern side of Hamurana Rd.

"We've found at least five lots of trees down, but we're clearing it now," he said.

The trees are blocking the road shortly after Unsworth Rd, heading away from Ngongotaha.

Mr Boag said the station's other appliance was on a call out to flooding along Parawai Rd.

Many roads have closed or remain closed in the Bay of Plenty and Waikato.

The eastern Bay of Plenty has several closures because of fallen power lines and slips. State Highway 29 the Kaimai Range is also now closed after a large slip.

All of the closures will stay in place overnight and contractors will be out on the state highway network at first light assessing any damage and beginning work where they can.

People can report any further damage to 0800 4 HIGHWAYS (0800 44 44 49).

Bay of Plenty - current closures

State Highway 2 between Ohiwa Beach Rd and Opotiki is closed because of slips.
State Highway 34 is closed at Otakiri between Edgecumbe and Te Teko because of fallen power lines.
State Highway 30 between Thornton Rd and Awakeri is closed because of fallen power lines.
State Highway 2 near Pikowai camping ground on the Matata straight is closed because of fallen tree and powerlines. It will remain closed tonight.
The roads closed during Cyclone Debbie or previous projects (SH2 Edgecumbe, SH2 at Waimana Gorge, SH2 Pekatahi Bridge) in the Eastern Bay of Plenty remain closed.
State Highway 29 Kaimai Range is also currently closed because of a large slip at the bottom of the Waikato side. Not expected to open tonight.

8.53pm
Power is out in Murupara, as part of widespread outages across the region.

Unison relationship manager Danny Gough has confirmed its power outage app was currently down.

"We have widespread outages across all our regions, and that has caused the app to crash," he said.

"People need to be prepared for long power outages."

He said staff had been working hard to restore power where alternative supply was possible but conditions were too rough to send crews out.

"In weather like this, it is imperative we make sure it is safe for our team to carry out repairs. So, we ask for our customers' patience."

Unison has extra crews on stand-by to start repairs when it's safe to do so, but is also urging customers to ensure they are prepared for potentially long periods without power.

"We are also mindful of our customers who are medically dependent on power, so we urge them to make alternative arrangements and liaise with their medical providers for advice," he said.

Meanwhile reports of a tree down on a garage in Ngongotaha turned out to be a false alarm.

Just a branch had fallen onto the garage. The fire crew removed the branch and moved on to another job.

8.43pm
A tree has fallen onto a garage on Parawai Rd in Ngongotaha.

Ngongotaha Volunteer Fire Brigade staff are at the scene.

Chief fire officer Francis Boag said there was "quite a bit of surface flooding" in the area.

8.20pm
Power is currently being restored to 137 homes across Braymoore Pl, Gloucester Rd, Hamurana Rd, Maxwell Rd and Tauranga Direct Rd.

To stay up to date with power outages go to http://www.unison.co.nz/outages.

Stephen Glassey, Metservice Meteorologist, said over the next hour the storm would ease to "almost nothing" as it moved south.

7.45pm:

A tree has fallen on the corner of Tarawera Rd and Forest Pl in Lynmore.

"The northbound lane is currently blocked," a police media spokeswoman said.

Rotorua Civil Defence Emergency Management Primary Controller Stavros Michael said Fulton Hogan contractors were working to make the road safe.

"We've got a few minor things happening, but nothing major happening at this point," he said.

"We'll be working through the night, but hopefully it stays like this."

Meanwhile, due to several large slips State Highway 32 between Kuratau and Tihoi is now closed, the NZTA says. A detour is in place via SH1 as Whangamata Rd is also closed.

7.25pm:

Rotorua and the Bay of Plenty is being lashed by heavy rain and strong gusts.

Cyclone Cook made landfall in the Bay of Plenty about 6.30pm.

355 customers in Lake Rotoma are currently without power due to the cyclone.

"It's going to be a busy night and we'll be trying to get power back as soon as we can," Unison relationship manager Danny Gough said.

"Of course it's also important for us to make sure we're keeping our guys safe overnight."

A team of technicians are already on site and attempting to get power going.

Residents in Hamurana are experiencing intermittent outages.

Power has gone out in Whakatane and trees are down, leaving shops and homes in darkness during one of the biggest storms to hit the country in 50 years.

Horizon Networks said the cyclone had damaged infrastructure supplying the Whakatane township and surrounding areas. Transpower has also lost supply to the Waimana, Opotiki and Te Kaha districts as well as Ohope and Ohiwa Harbour.

It said there may be power lines down around the district.

Earlier:

Flights in and out of Rotorua have been cancelled this evening as Cyclone Cook draws near.

Air New Zealand flight NZ 8239, due to leave for Wellington at 7.10pm was one such flight affected.

Customers booked to travel tomorrow are advised to consult the arrivals and departures information on the Air New Zealand website for up to date schedule information.

The storm is expected to hit Bay of Plenty around 7pm to 8pm tonight.

Anna Simmons sent in this photo, saying there was two feet of water below the boards. Supplied.
Anna Simmons sent in this photo, saying there was two feet of water below the boards. Supplied.

Meanwhile, people have been reporting issues with the Bay of Plenty Civil's Defence website.

"While we work on a fix we encourage you to check out your local council's Facebook page and website for updates."

Locals are being warned to stay away from all lake and water edges, Sulphur Point access has been closed and 45mm of rain has been recorded over the past 24 hours.

Arno Dyason, Metservice meteorologist, said the rain would pick up from now until around 7pm and would clear later tonight.

"It's a fast moving system, things change fairly quickly."

However, he warned of potential risk of severe gales this evening.

The 45mm of rain over the past 24 hours to 4pm today was recorded at Rotorua airport.

Rotorua Lakes Council said all Rotorua roads were open, however contractors are still working to clear some slips.

The public road access from Sulphur Point to the Government Gardens Golf course is closed until further notice as a result of fallen trees.

The traffic lights the intersection of Fenton and Amohau Streets are not working, the council said.

A contractor is working on the problem and traffic management will be in place until the lights are fixed.

Earlier, locals were stockpiling food and water, sports events were postponed and the Rotorua Lakes Council urged only necessary travel as Cyclone Cook moves closer to the Bay of Plenty.

Andrew McKie, national disaster response manager at the Red Cross, said the Rotorua disaster support and welfare team had a four-wheel drive and trailer containing welfare supplies such as blankets, camp stretches and pillows.

He said the team members, of which there are up to 12 in Rotorua, were trained in first aid and able to support people "who are a bit worried and concerned."

He said the team would be deployed by Civil Defense if needed.

Bay of Plenty senior club rugby games tonight and tomorrow have been postponed, to ensure the safety of teams and referees.

Games scheduled for Saturday will go ahead as planned at this stage, however Bay of Plenty Rugby Union will continue to monitor the weather forecast and a further update will be provided 12pm Friday.

The Whakarewarewa against Whakatane Marist game at Puarenga Park in round five of Baywide Premier will be played on Monday. It was originally set down for tomorrow.

The council has provided some information regarding emergency kits and how to stay informed.

- If you are concerned that flooding may affect your property consider taking preventative measures. Sandbags can be purchased from Landscape suppliers or most hardware stores.
- Public safety is council's key priority.
- Don't go out if you don't need to - stay at home instead.
- If you do need to travel - check road closures and take extreme care while driving. Flash floods and slips may occur especially in rural areas or on the open road.
- Stay away from waterways (rivers, streams, open drains and the lake) water levels can rise extremely fast and banks can become unstable.
- Clear blocked drains and gutters at your property to reduce the risk of flooding.
- Check your supplies - don't leave it to the last minute to get what you need.
- Keep pets inside.
- Check on your whanau and neighbours.
- Discuss a plan with your family for what you will do if you need to evacuate - where to go, how to get there, how to get in contact with each other.
- Check your insurance policy - coverage and amount.
- Remove any loose items in your yard - in strong winds these can be a danger (patio furniture, toys etc).
- Secure doors and shutters.

What to have in your emergency kit
You should consider having an at-home kit, and one to take should you need to leave quickly:
- Personal medicines and first aid kit.
- Important documents.
- Enough food for three days for your whole family.
- Three litres of water per person for three days.
- Portable, battery powered torch and batteries.
- Cash.
- Matches in a water proof container.
- Items for infants - formula, nappies, bottles.
- Any special items you require - glasses, dentures, hearing aid batteries.

Helpful websites for emergency information
- Keep an eye on the weather forecast at www.metservice.com
- If people are traveling check live updates via http://www.nzta.govt.nz/traffic/
- Rotorua Lakes Council will be providing updates about weather, roading matters and BOP Civil Defence news on its website if you would like to share them.
- You can find information about how to get prepared on the Civil Defence website, http://getthru.govt.nz/how-to-get-ready
- People can subscribe to emergency alerts at http://www.bopcivildefence.govt.nz/Emergency-Status/Subscribe

Earlier today, more than 70 houses in the Hamurana area were without power, with crews working to restore it.

Unison relationship manager Danny Gough said he was unsure of the cause but it was probably weather related.

Customers on Hamurana Rd, Hoko Rd, Penny Rd and Te Waerenga Rd were affected.

Regarding the coming weather, Mr Gough said extra staff were on standby and ready to respond as necessary.

Meanwhile, the Rotorua District Court has closed for the day. All cases scheduled to be heard this afternoon have been rescheduled.

The Rotorua Lakes Council are urging locals to only travel if necessary as road conditions can change suddenly due to the approaching weather.

All roads are open in Rotorua but access along some routes has been affected.

The only new slip reported by the council is on Endean Rd, where the slip has been cleared to side of road and caution signage has been put up.

Council contractors are continuing to clear the following roads:

- Te Weta Rd: Two under-slips near bridge and three small overslips along the length of the road.

- Waikite Valley Rd: Road open with signage advising care to be taken.

- Hamurana Rd: Road open, signage advising caution.

- Lake Okataina Rd: Road open, but some small slips to be cleared

- Maniatutu Rd: More than eight slips of various sizes, although one lane is opened.

- Mangamingi Rd: Several slips along road

- Rehi Rd: Several small slips with signage erected

- Twist Rd: Several small slips

- Poutakataka Rd: Several small slips

- Totora Rd: Several small slips

- Okaro Rd: Two lanes have been opened. Slip material still remains on left side of the road.

- Waimungu Rd: Slip on left hand side of road.

- Te Kopia Road: Contractors clearing several slips.Signage advising care has been erected

- Hossack Rd: Several slips including twp large slips.

- Tuminui Rd: Slips and signage erected.

- Maleme Rd:Slips and signage erected
.
- Te Akau Rd: Slips

- Dunkirk Rd: Four small slips on the side of road

The NZ Cycleway south of Rotorua has been blocked by slips.

The Whakarewarewa Forest is now closed as result of the severe weather, and all sports fields will remain closed until 8 am on Saturday.

EARLIER:

Locals are stocking up in preparation for Cyclone Cook hitting, buying water and canned food.

At Countdown on Fenton St, Nickie Waerea was buying bulk bottled water for a friend who owns a farm in Mamaku.

"She's worried about the tank water so I'm taking this to her."

Summer Martin said her partner was a "bit frantic" about the coming storm so she had stocked up "just in case."

"I've got canned items, baby stuff and bottles of water."

Inside there were crowds around the shelves containing candles and matches, while many shoppers had a trollies full of bottled water.

At The Warehouse Rotorua manager Sally Rison said it was hard to judge if people were stocking up for the storm or as it was Easter, but people were picking up items such as candles and water.

Contractors have placed heavy sand bags around the base of the Affinity sculpture in Rotorua's City Focus.

Summer Martin stocks up at Countdown Rotorua. Photo/Ben Fraser
Summer Martin stocks up at Countdown Rotorua. Photo/Ben Fraser

The temporary light installation will not operate tonight.

Contractors and engineers from Rotorua Lakes Council's Civil Defence are on standby in preparation for Cyclone Cook.

Controller Stavros Michael said the council's priority was to look after people's wellbeing and the personal safety of locals and their families.

"We will try to arrange if people need to be evacuated, alternative shelter for them."

Mr Michael said he was in charge of the staff mobilisation process letting staff know what and when is going on.

Meanwhile those with flights in and out of Rotorua, and around the country, are asked to anticipate delays and cancellations.

A tree down on State Highway 5 south of Rotorua this morning. Photo/Stephen Parker
A tree down on State Highway 5 south of Rotorua this morning. Photo/Stephen Parker

Air New Zealand said it will monitor weather conditions, and customers booked to travel are advised to consult the arrivals and departures information on the Air New Zealand website for up to date information.

"Air New Zealand is offering fare flexibility for customers no longer wishing to travel. Due to the significant nature of this weather event and the likely disruption to the national roading network, Air New Zealand will not provide road transport options today for passengers whose travel is disrupted."

Earlier

Rotorua is being told to prepare for heavy rains, power outages, road closures and possible high winds as a massive storm hits the region.

MetService is warning locals to take heed of weather warnings saying the conditions could be similar to those during Cyclone Giselle, which contributed to the Wahine disaster in 1968.

Although Cyclone Cook has been downgraded to a extra tropical low it is still expected to pack a big punch.

MetService meteorologist Lisa Murray said residents needed to be careful as rivers and streams could rise quickly, and people should be prepared for power outages and expect road closures.

A wind warning is out for Rotorua and the Bay of Plenty, with winds of up to 150km/h possible in some areas from tomorrow afternoon.

Bay of Plenty Regional Council group controller Clinton Naude said this was a very significant event.

"Powerlines may be impacted and roofs lifted. Driving conditions are likely to be hazardous, so people will need to take extra care on the roads, and even consider altering their Thursday and Easter Friday travel plans."

The Whakarewarewa Forest, including the Redwoods, will be closed to the public from 4pm tomorrow.

Public access will be reassessed by Rotorua Lakes Council later in the week. All Rotorua sports fields are closed.

Rotorua mayor Steve Chadwick tonight encouraged locals to err on the side of caution and be prepared.

"The council's Civil Defence controller Stavros Michael is in regular contact with Bay of Plenty Civil Defence colleagues and locally the situation continues to be monitored.

"I'm confident we've done all the right things to prepare and take preventive action where possible and am confident in the council's readiness to respond if needed."

Unison Networks has asked Rotorua and Taupo customers to prepare for strong winds and potential power cuts.

Unison relationship manager Danny Gough said the advice was to be prepared.

"[The storm's] impact could also be greater due to the ground already being sodden from recent extreme rainfall, increasing the potential for flooding, trees falling and damage to powerlines."

Mr Gough said Unison had extra crews on standby, but urged locals to ensure they were prepared for potentially long periods without power.

"As part of your household emergency kit, make sure you have a battery operated radio and torch, a full gas bottle for cooking on your barbecue, and if you rely on electricity for heating, we also recommend a portable gas heater."

Mr Gough said outdoor objects such furniture, trampolines and other loose items should be securely fixed to the ground.

New Zealand Transport Agency highways manager Niclas Johansson said road users should check weather and road conditions before they travelled.

"Simple guidelines for travelling in wet weather include ensuring your vehicle is safe, always driving to the road and weather conditions, allowing more time for your travel, slowing down, being prepared for unexpected hazards and allowing greater following distance between you and the vehicle ahead."

All local roads are now open to at least one lane.

A spokeswoman for NZTA said parts of SH30 were hazardous due to slips.

"One lane is closed due to a large slip last week, and is expected to be closed for some time," she said.

Philips Search and Rescue Trust's Tauranga-based Trustpower TECT Rescue Helicopter and Rotorua-based BayTrust Rescue Helicopter are both on standby for rescue missions resulting from the storm.

How to prepare
- Stay up to date with official warnings and forecasts by keeping your mobile device fully charged.
- Check your guttering, stormwater drains, culverts. Make sure they are clear to help the water run freely.
- Take extra care on the roads, and be on the look out for slips and flash flooding.
- Make sure you have enough food and water for seven days.
- Ensure your animals are safe.
*
Stay informed
- If you need emergency assistance call 111.
- Call Unison on 0800 2 UNISON for situations such as trees in power lines or lines down.
- Follow the Bay of Plenty Civil Defence text alerts by texting RO for Rotorua to 2028.
- Slips should be reported to the Rotorua Lakes Council on (07) 348 4199.
- Live updates will also be posted on rotoruadailypost.co.nz and the Rotorua Daily Post Facebook page.