Westerly gales will be hitting the Bay this afternoon and Metservice is warning the gales may become severe.

Forecaster Erick Brenstrum said a front was expected to move rapidly east over the country today, bringing a period of rain to western areas and strong to gale westerlies across much of the North Island.

The severe weather watch for the Bay of Plenty was issued for late this afternoon into Wednesday morning.

People were advised to stay up to date with the latest forecasts in case part of this watch was upgraded to a warning.