A drought-stricken southern Hawke's Bay farmer is looking to the skies with hope after 72-hour rainfall that was more than he'd seen on the farm in the rest of the first three months of the year.

Paul van Beers, better known as a former multiple world and national farm fencing competitions title winner, farms at Mangaorapa, one of the driest of all spots in particularly parched southern and central Hawke's Bay.

He said about 20mm of rain was recorded in the band of rain which started late Friday, the first rain for more than three weeks. Another 20mm had fallen since late Sunday.

Green shoots had started to appear on some of the grassland, with hopes for more rain, but not all at once as forecast in a heavy rain warning suggesting up to another 80mm in the area by Tuesday.

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The warning for 10am Monday to 6am Tuesday in Hawke's Bay was issued by national weather agency MetService, with thunderstorms and localised downpours possible, and "accumulations" of 110 to 150mm in some areas, with 15 to 25mm per hour, but to 25 to 40mm per hour in localised thunderstorms.

An "severe thunderstorms" update late on Monday morning but later lifted warned of severe thunderstorms in the early afternoon, saying a front was across Gisborne and Hawke's Bay, bringing periods of heavy rain and a moderate risk of severe thunderstorms from the afternoon into the evening.

The warnings said heavy rain may cause streams and rivers to rise rapidly, with surface flooding and slips possible, and creating hazardous driving conditions for what are minimal numbers of vehicles on the roads.

According to latest Hawke's Bay Today weather figures to Sunday night, March rainfall at the major stations has been well under half March averages.

At Mahia there had been 30.4mm, compared with a March average of 110.9mm, Hawke's Bay Airport rainfall totalled 18mm, compared with a March average of 63.2mm, Hastings' 29.2mm compared with a March average of 75mm, and Takapau Plains rainfall for the month totalled 38.8mm, compared with a March average of 87mm.

A MetService meteorologist said early Monday afternoon that about 45mm of rain had fallen at Mahia in the previous 24 hours, with 8-10mm in the Napier-Hastings area, and under 7mm on the Takapau Plains in Central Hawke's Bay.

In many areas of Hawke's Bay rain on Friday afternoon was the first in more than three weeks. MetService is forecasting the rain this week to be short lived, with drier conditions mid-week but with possibly more rain by the weekend.

With the drought extending in much of Hawke's Bay, particularly south of Napier, Federated Farmers provincial president Jim Galloway said early this afternoon that at his property near Hastings rain forecast for late this morning had not come.

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But the rain that had fallen in the last two to three days meant the soil would absorb heavier falls better, although he said: "Heavy rain is the last thing we'd want. We need a reasonable chunk and some more to follow. A lot of areas are way behind with the ground water."

Hawke's Bay Regional Council principal scientist air Dr Kathleen Kozyniak said that "for the most part" Central Hawke's Bay had 5-10mm of rain and "is probably needing a few belts of 20mm or so."

Wairoa mayor Craig Little, a farmer in Northern Hawke's Bay, said his area was over the drought risk, with rain over the last three weeks.

In the cities, autumn leaves posed some risk of blocking drains and causing flooding. But the Napier City Council reassured keeping homes safe from flooding is an essential service so it had staff to continue managing the stormwater system.