As Cyclone Cook tore up trees, cut power and flooded some parts of the country, Aucklanders were left wondering whether it was a fizzer.

The destructive storm changed track further east as it got close to making landfall, narrowly avoiding the city and instead hammering the Bay of Plenty, Gisborne and Hawke's Bay.

MetService meteorologist Nick Zacher said tropical cyclones were "fickle beasts which are hard to pin down".

The strongest wind gust was 209km/h recorded at White Island about 4pm on Thursday. Cape Kidnappers' winds hit 154km/h at 9pm.

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However, winds around the Bay of Plenty were generally much lower.

Earlier on Thursday, forecasters were warning Cook could be in the same league as ex-Tropical Cyclone Giselle in 1968, which hit the whole country and resulted in the fatal Wahine ferry disaster.

Early warnings that the Auckland Harbour Bridge may need to be closed due to strong winds did not materialise, as the storm largely missed the city. Damage in Auckland was limited to minor flooding and some downed trees.

Cyclone Cook was small and compact and tracked further east than first thought, so Auckland wasn't badly hit.

If the storm was slightly larger or tracked a little more west, the destruction could have been bad, which is why the MetService sent out the warnings, Zacher said.

"Thankfully Auckland seemed to dodge the bullet," Zacher said.

A silver lining for those sent home early on Thursday was they now had a four-and-a-half day weekend, the meteorologist said.

Civil Defence director Sarah Stuart-Black said although the cyclone had not had the impact feared, on areas such as Auckland and Bay of Plenty, it was still a dangerous event and it was important to take precautions.

"Because people took from those precautionary messages, the impact from the storm is less likely to have been what it could have been," she said during a briefing in Wellington this morning.

"So we are really pleased. We should never under-estimate the potential severity of events like this."

MetService's Chris Noble told the same media briefing that Cyclone Cook tracked slightly further east than earlier expected, which meant eastern Bay of Plenty, Gisborne and Hawke's Bay were worst affected. Auckland and Wellington escaped the worst of the storm.

"Had the system tracked a little bit further west I think it would have been a very different story for the likes of central and western parts of the North Island, including Auckland and Wellington," Noble said.

Meanwhile, Aucklanders hit social media to voice their thoughts on the Cyclone - both defending and mocking the warnings from officials.

Others, however, were pleased the storm wasn't as disastrous as expected.

Meanwhile, Waikato and Bay of Plenty face a clean-up.

Emergency services received dozens of calls about homes flooding, and powerlines and trees brought down in the Thames-Coromandel District, Matamata, Tauranga and Whakatane.

Slips, flooding and fallen trees and powerlines have forced the closures of parts of SH2, SH25, SH30 and SH34, according to the NZTA.

A slip has come down in Harbourview Drive, Omokoroa, and is partially blocking the road. Photo/Jamie Morton
A slip has come down in Harbourview Drive, Omokoroa, and is partially blocking the road. Photo/Jamie Morton

Last night, Auckland Civil Defence defended its warnings because the force of the cyclone, which looked to be about to hit the city, had the potential to cause "lots of loss of life".

Auckland Civil Defence head of emergency management operations Aaron Davis said storms like Cook "don't come round like this very often".

An announcement the Auckland Harbour Bridge could be closed was cause for panic for some residents, but Davis said it was all part of making sure people were as informed as they could be.

If the cyclone had hit as expected, the bridge likely would have had to close.

Civil Defence Waikato said it had "expected the worst and hoped for the best, and it's a good day when we can report that the storm mostly bypassed the Waikato".

Huge waves hit the beach at Whiritoa as Cyclone Cook makes landfall at dusk. Photo/Dave Kerr
Huge waves hit the beach at Whiritoa as Cyclone Cook makes landfall at dusk. Photo/Dave Kerr

However, there were slips, power outages, flooding and road closures and Civil Defence warned anyone travelling over Easter to be careful of "ponding" on the roads.

"And we're not quite out of the woods yet. The rivers will continue to rise and there may be more flooding over the coming days. Our thoughts go out to our friends in Bay of Plenty and across the country who have really taken the brunt of the storm."

Meanwhile, Thames-Coromandel District Civil Defence controller, Garry Towler, has declared: "Coromandel is open for business".

There were still slips and surface flooding on roads across the Coromandel, where road works and traffic management are in place, he said. Motorists were asked to expect delays and drive with caution.