Cyclone Gabrielle is causing damage to roads, properties and power supplies in Northland, with the centre of the storm expected to be over Bream Bay at midnight on Monday.
A state of emergency has been declared in the region, with Northland Civil Defence Emergency Management group controller Graeme MacDonald warning ‘the worst of the forecast weather has yet to come’.
The storm has already caused damage to properties in the Far North as wind gusts of up to 140 km/h have been recorded in exposed places.
MetService meteorologist Mmathapelo Makgabutlane said Whangārei and surrounding areas had received the bulk of the rain so far, with upwards of 70mm since midnight last night.
A wind gust of 140 km/h was recorded at Cape Reinga this morning. People had been warned to expect gusts of 120-130 km/h or “possibly more” in exposed places.
Metservice upgraded the wind warning for Northland from orange to red at 12.15pm. The warning lasts until 9pm on Tuesday, with severe gales expected.
A red heavy rain warning remains in place until 12am Tuesday. Areas south of Kaeo can expect 200 to 300mm, with 100 to 180mm elsewhere. MetService warned of peak intensities of 10 to 15mm and 20 to 30mm in the south on Monday.
Makgabutlane said the highest amount of rain in one hour so far was 16mm in Whangārei, and the worst was yet to come.
“There could be areas of flash flooding with heavier downpours of rain. We’re still expecting the bulk of the rain from this weather system.”
Far North deputy mayor Kelly Stratford said there had already been power cuts and property damage due to high winds and some residents near the coast have self-evacuated due to expected storm surges.
She urged people to prepare by turning off appliances if they did not have a surge protector and ensuring they had spare batteries and their phones were charged.
“There’s not much you can do when you’re in it,” Stratford said. “If your roof blows off today, there’s not much you can do. You can’t fix it in the storm.”
People should be prepared for roading issues, such as fallen trees, and not travel if it was not necessary, she added.
She urged travelling tourists to find somewhere to shelter from the storm, such as a safe campground.
“We’ve got a number of tourists on the road and that puts a bit of pressure on our local response,” Stratford said.
Surface flooding has begun in Whangārei. Water from the Town Basin has flooded over the footpath wrapped around the Hātea Loop closest to Riverside Dr. BP Riverside has been closed due to flooding.
Water from the Ruakākā River has submerged Princes St and is slowly engulfing the front yards of some waterfront properties.
Jury trials have now been adjourned in Whangārei until Wednesday, February 15 due to the cyclone.
Northland Regional Harbourmaster Jim Lyle said “nothing too major” had occurred on the water “yet”. Lyle noted the only action had been various boats dragging or coming off their moorings.
Surf Life Saving Northern Region (SLSNR) Lifesaving Operations Manager James Lea urged people to stay away from the coast with extremely large swells expected.
“We want people to stay away from our beaches and coastlines if possible. The conditions are going to be extremely dangerous on both the east and west coasts of Auckland and Northland.
“To be clear, it is not safe to visit the beach while we are experiencing severe weather conditions, and the coastline should be avoided until the weather clears.”
NIWA reported massive waves up to 12m high around the upper North Island.
Surf Life Saving would have search and rescue squads on standby in the event of flooding, Lea said, and anyone in trouble should phone 111 and ask for police.
All Air New Zealand flights in and out of Whangārei Airport have been cancelled until midday on Tuesday.
Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency is advising motorists that the section of SH1 Brynderwyn Hills to Waipū will be closed overnight from 6pm today.
”Due to the amount of rainfall today and forecasted overnight, and the risk of slips, the decision has been made to close the road overnight to keep everyone, including our crews, safe. The road may be closed earlier if deemed unsafe.
”Waka Kotahi crews will reassess the road in the morning to check if it is safe to open again.”
Detours will be in place overnight for light vehicles via Mangawhai and Waipū, and for heavy vehicles via SH12 and SH14.
Pipiwai Rd, closest to Kamo, has closed as a large fallen tree is blocking the road.
Whangārei District Council reported Kaka St and Taiharuru Rd had also closed. It said a number of roads in the district have been affected by the cyclone with a full list available on its Facebook page.
Beach Rd in Onerahi is underwater from Hill St to Charlise Pl. Riverside Dr is down to one lane, and SH10 at Kaeo has reportedly started to flood.
Northland police reported flooding has started to impact State Highway 1 over the Brynderwyn Hills.
They also stated trees were down across roads around the region, including SH10 in Kāeo, SH14 in Maunu, and across Ngunguru Rd in Whangārei.
”Northlanders – please stay off the roads if at all possible, and follow information from Civil Defence.”
Kaipara residents living beyond 1180 Oneriri Rd have been cut off as a fallen tree has blocked the road where no alternative route is available.
Access Rd in Ruawai is also closed and Cove Rd in Mangawhai is down to one lane. Kaipara District Council said its contractors are working to remove the fallen trees as fast as possible.
Paihia’s main waterfront road, Marsden Rd/State Highway 11, is closed between Bay View Rd and Williams Rd due to waves crashing onto the road.
However, high tide has now passed and water levels were expected to drop. Te Karuwha Parade in Waitangi is also closed.
Waves have pushed rocks onto Hihi Beach Rd, blocking the road off for residents needing to get to the Hihi Beach Holiday Park end of Waiaua Rd.
Police and Far North District Council contractors have been asked to block off the road by the town’s volunteer fire brigade as the situation becomes dangerous. High tide is due just before 1pm.
Motorists along Wainui Rd, near Whangaroa, are asked to take care as trees are being cleared off the road.
A pair of Mangawhai homeowners evacuated to a friend’s place after a large macrocarpa tree fell onto their home. Mangawhai fire chief Graeme Kerrigan said the brigade was called to the Cames Rd home around 10.57am.
”The house sustained quite a lot of damage,” he said.
The owners sought shelter with a friend in light of the heavy rain warning for the region scheduled to last until midnight on Monday.
Powerlines had also being brought down in the area. Kerrigan said the brigade had been busy preparing for the impact of Cyclone Gabrielle.
He advised people to keep track of Civil Defence updates, prepare a grab bag; avoid travel if possible but if not, to make sure people had a food and water supply on hand and to let someone know the planned route and estimated arrival time.
”We’ve seen the floods in Auckland and what can happen, we don’t want that for our people. Heed the warnings and stay safe.”
Far North District Councillor Felicity Foy said a verandah roof at her parents’ home in Pukenui, about 50km north of Kaitāia, had blown off.
The roof, which was the length of the house or about 15m long, had been carried about 100m by the wind and landed on the road. Fortunately, the roof of the house itself was still holding as far as she knew.
It was the wind gusts that were causing the biggest problems along the east coast of Te Hiku, Foy said.
She was currently at Ahipara, on the west coast, which was a little more sheltered. However, even there she said “the whole house was shaking” during the worst gusts about an hour ago and part of an upstairs window had blown off.
Civil Defence Northland said there had been no major flooding-related incidents overnight.
”The key message for Northlanders remains the same: please stay prepared, keep up to date with the latest information and weather conditions, and most importantly avoid any non-essential travel - if you must drive please drive to the conditions and keep an eye out for hazards.”
A tree has fallen on a house in Mangawhai as Cyclone Gabrielle bears down on the country. Fire and Emergency shift manager Colin Underwood said one fire appliance was in attendance at the incident on Cames Rd, Mangawhai.
He said the occupants of the house are receiving advice from staff. Underwood also said power lines in the area are down.
As of 5pm on Sunday more than 5000 households across the Far North were without power.
That included almost all households on the Aupōuri Peninsula north of Pukenui, almost 1200 homes and businesses on the Karikari Peninsula, and just under 500 homes in the Rāwhiti and Waikare areas south of Russell.
Lines company Top Energy gave 7pm as the estimated restoration time. Large outages north of Kaitāia earlier this morning, at Pukenui and Te Kao, have been fixed.
Northpower currently has outages in the greater Ruakākā area, including Waipu and Oakleigh, Maungatapere, Maungakaramea, Tauraroa, Waiotira, Ngunguru, Tutukaka, Wellingtons Bay, Kaihu, Donnellys Crossing, Hikurangi, Whakapara, Whananaki North, Kauri and Glenbervie.
There were also outages in Kaipara in Ruawai, Matakohe, Oparakau, Greenhill, Wairere, Whakapirau, Oneriri and Hakaru.
The number of affected customers is unknown.
Cyclone Gabrielle is making her presence felt and the conditions are becoming hazardous, Northpower spokesperson Rachel Wansbone said.
”There are widespread outages across the network, with around 8250 customers currently without power and we expect this to increase as the weather worsens.
“Multiple Northpower crews are out in this weather working hard, and given the impact of this storm our current priority is to ensure that everyone is safe, including our crews.”
Wansbone said until the storm passes and the wind abates, repairs will be difficult for crews to resolve.
”Given the dangerous conditions, it is likely that there will be long delays in restoration of power, particularly where the affected equipment has been isolated for safety but further work is required to address the issues.”
Wansbone said people should prepare for outages that may be long-lasting as the cyclone is likely to last for several days.
”When it is safe to do so, and crews are available, work will begin to rectify issues.”
She reminded people to always treat all equipment as live and stay clear of downed lines which can be reported to Northpower by calling 0800 10 40 40.”Thank you for your understanding and patience while our crews work to keep everyone safe.”
Whangārei District Council said Northlanders can turn to community-led welfare centres and Civil Defence emergency evacuation centres if homes become too unsafe to stay in during the storm.
Council said there are two community-led welfare centres already operating for the homeless community of Whangarei: Terenga Paraoa Marae on Porowini Ave in Central Whangārei and 155 Whare Āwhina (Open Arms) at 155 Kamo Rd.
An evacuation centre has been prepared but not yet opened at McKay Stadium in Kensington.
The centre can be activated quickly if necessary, the council said.
”We are extremely grateful for the outpouring of support we can already see in the community. If you’re safe and dry at home please check in on your neighbours too. Make sure you’re prepared for a water outage or a power cut, have a flood plan, and think of indoor activities for kids.”
The Whangaruru North Residents and Ratepayers Association said the area was “getting some good gusts at the moment”.
”Stay inside and be aware in these gusts some items may take off in the wind and become missiles.
”Tūparehuia Marae is available as an evacuation centre and with the support of Ngātiwai Trust can provide kai/food for those in need.”
Morehu Marae, Pawarenga will open their doors at 5pm tonight for whānau needing shelter from Cyclone Gabrielle. People are asked to bring kai, bedding and warm clothes and toys for the tamariki to keep them occupied.
While currently unmanned, Tauteihihi Marae in Kohukohu will be available for people in the area needing to evacuate their homes.
A notice will be issued if the decision is made to have someone there 24/7, Kohukohu Volunteer Fire Brigade announced via its Facebook page.
Additional Urban Search and Rescue teams made an early morning departure from Auckland this morning headed north.
Fire and Emergency New Zealand said the extra USAR teams will work alongside local firefighters to help communities cope with the cyclone.
The teams are equipped for light rescue and experienced in rapid damage assessments. A crew will be stationed in Kaitāia, along with a paramedic.
While a second USAR team, which includes water rescue capability and drone operators, will be based in Whangārei.
The Whananaki Volunteer Fire Brigade encouraged vulnerable Northlanders to try and seek shelter closer to medical services.
”Our biggest concern is that in the case of a medical emergency the ability for a first response vehicle to respond may be affected due to flood waters or trees across access roads. If you are vulnerable and have the ability to stay closer to medical help it may be a wise decision.”
Fire and Emergency (FENZ) has converted the lounge at Kaitāia Fire Station into an incident management centre, where the work of firefighters, police, health and other agencies will be coordinated. The photo shows preparations underway before 8am this morning.
All passenger trains at the Kawakawa-based Bay of Islands Vintage Railway have been cancelled today amid worsening weather conditions. Today was to have been the last day of the seven-day-a-week summer timetable.
A free concert by Australia’s Hot Potato Band which had been due to start at 4pm today at the Turner Centre in Kerikeri has been postponed on the advice of Northland Civil Defence.
Kanikani Katoa with the Hot Potato Band has been rescheduled to 5.30pm on Tuesday, February 14, when it is expected the worst of the cyclone will be over.
The curse of Macbeth appears to have struck once again with a production of the famous Shakespeare tragedy cancelled in Kerikeri last night due to deteriorating weather brought by Cyclone Gabrielle.
A spokesperson for Kerikeri Theatre Company said the conditions would have put the audience, cast and equipment at risk during the outdoor performance at Kainui Vineyard. Ticket holders could attend any of next week’s Thursday to Saturday performances instead.
The production has been dogged by problems including a year-long delay after the cast was hit by the first Omicron outbreak in Northland and the lead actor getting stuck in a US airport for six days during rehearsals earlier this month.
Traditionally some actors have believed the play to be cursed with some refusing even to use its name, referring to it as “the Scottish play” instead.