Northlanders are being warned to batten down the hatches today with Cyclone Cook expected to bring heavy rain, localised flooding and high winds.

As of last night, however, the centre of the cyclone was heading towards Coromandel and the Bay of Plenty. If it keeps to that track Northland should dodge the worst of the weather, as it did with Cyclone Debbie last week.

MetService has issued a heavy rain warning for the region and Northlanders can expect to be drenched by 110-150mm of rain, especially in the east. Rainfall rates of 30-40mm per hour and thunderstorms are possible.

Northland Civil Defence is monitoring the situation and preparing for rainfall of similar volumes and intensities to the last storm, bringing surface flooding in the usual places.

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Meanwhile police are urging Northlanders to drive to the weather conditions, buckle up, not drink and drive, and keep to the speed limit.

A lowered speed threshold of 4km/h will apply during the official holiday period from 4pm today until 6am on Tuesday. Police say they will maintain a highly visible presence on the region's roads.

The highest risk of crashes will be between 4pm and 8pm today as holidaymakers leave for their destinations.

Cyclone Cook is expected to make landfall on the Coromandel Peninsula or Western Bay of Plenty this afternoon and move southwards, reaching Wellington early on Friday morning. Near the centre of the cyclone wind gusts of up to 150km/h and waves of 5m or more are expected.