A severe thunderstorm watch is in place for Rotorua and Bay of Plenty, as forecast heavy rain has begun.

MetService said a combination of humid subtropical air, and afternoon and early evening wind convergences, are likely to trigger heavy showers and thunderstorms about the central North Island and parts of Northland, including Rotorua.

There is a moderate risk of these thunderstorms becoming severe, producing localised downpours and torrential rain of 25 to 40mm/hr and possibly more. Rainfall of this intensity can cause flash flooding, especially about low-lying areas such as streams, rivers or narrow valleys, and may also lead to slips. Driving conditions will also be hazardous with surface flooding and poor visibility in heavy rain.

Earlier:

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Lightning was recorded in the Tongariro National Park between 5 and 6am today and heavy rain has fallen on the Desert Rd as a spell of bad weather rolls over the country.

At the Desert Rd weather station, 24mm of rain was recorded and 15mm fell in one hour at Tongariro National Park. There was surface flooding in Napier this morning, and all Sevens activities have been cancelled in Wellington due to rain.

MetService has issued a severe-weather watch for Northland, Waikato, Waitomo, Taumarunui, Bay of Plenty, Rotorua, Taupo, Gisborne, Hawkes Bay, Wanganui, and Taihape until 9pm.

A significant rainfall watch has also been issued for Bay of Plenty, Taupo, Hawkes Bay, Nelson-Buller, Westland and the Canterbury high country. "

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