Some Auckland homes and the city’s motorways have flooded as heavy rain once again wreaks havoc across an already-sodden region still recovering from Friday’s deadly storm. Another month’s worth of rain has fallen in Auckland in just 24 hours, with Northland, Coromandel and Bay of Plenty also in the line of fire of the latest “atmospheric river”.
Auckland’s Northern Motorway was closed by flooding in both directions between Esmond and Northcote roads for about 90 minutes on Wednesday, before reopening just before 8am. Other sections of the city’s motorways have also been severely impacted including the Southern Motorway at Greenlane and Ellerslie-Panmure, and the Southwestern Motorway (State Highway 20) southbound between Queenstown Rd and Neilson St. State Highways 1 and 16 further north of Auckland have been closed by slips and flooding.
The travel chaos extends further: Train services on the city’s western line have been stopped because of a power cut and passengers are being redirected to buses. Auckland Emergency Management is advising Aucklanders to avoid travelling “unless necessary”. It urged people to check latest road closures if travel cannot be avoided.
Emergency services are dealing with reports of trees that have fallen on homes in Mt Albert and Whitford; and flooding and landslips in Devonport, with some residents using buckets to furiously bail out water. There have also been callouts to a range of other suburbs including Hillcrest, Mt Roskill, Onehunga, Belmont, Lynfield, One Tree Hill, Remuera and Greenlane. Motorists were once again stranded on streets with rising floodwaters forcing them to abandon their vehicles in Greenlane.
A caller to Newstalk ZB’s Marcus Lush from Auckland’s Orewa said last night she had been clearing debris from her drains. “Water’s coming up to the door... it’s horrible,” said the woman, who lives near the estuary on Maygrove Dr. “Friday was really bad, I just hope it moves quickly... I’ve already got carpet damage. It’s a bit scary.”
NIWA reported this morning that, in 24 hours, 71mm of rain had fallen at its Western Springs climate station in Auckland - " month’s worth of rain... again”. Much of the rain fell in only a few hours including 25.2mm in one hour, 44.2 mm in two hours and 58.6mm in three hours.
STORY CONTINUES AFTER LIVE BLOG:
State Highway 1 is closed between Brynderwyn and Waipu following slips on the southern side of the Brynderwyn Hills, and State Highway 16 is closed between Waimauku and Helensville. A sinkhole also opened up in Swanson, West Auckland, last night, taking out power lines.
Texts to ZB’s Marcus Lush from residents in north Auckland last night included: “Pouring and big wind gusts happening in Tindalls Bay, Whangaparaoa”; “It’s hitting the Whangaparaoa peninsula. Very strong wind and rain”; “At Waitoki, about 15km inland from Orewa. Getting pretty wild here now”; “Wind and rain has increased in Browns Bay.”
Northland is now out from under a red heavy rain warning but is still in a state of emergency. Auckland, north of Orewa, is under a red warning until 8am; Coromandel until 4pm and Western Bay of Plenty areas until 9pm. The rest of Auckland, south of Orewa, is under an orange heavy rain alert until 10am, with up to 80mm expected overnight and a yellow watch for strong winds. “It’s right over us now,” tweeted councillor Richard Hills. “Please do not hesitate to evacuate if you feel unsafe or if water starts to rise.”
Northland declared a seven-day state of emergency at 1pm on Tuesday - the third region to do so since Friday evening’s deadly storm which has claimed four lives. More than 1000 Far North homes lost power this afternoon, but it was restored for most by 7.30pm. Northland and Auckland down to Orewa remain under a red warning until tomorrow morning.
Coromandel is also in the firing line - a red warning came into effect at 10pm last night - and MetService has extended that to several other areas across the North Island, including Tauranga and Rotorua.
State Highway 2 in the Karangahake Gorge between Waihī and Paeroa was closed by a large slip yesterday afternoon. It has now reopened.
Meanwhile Auckland mayor Wayne Brown has urged residents to “stay home” wherever possible. So far, more than 100 homes have been red-stickered and 375 have been yellow-stickered.
Schools have been closed but the Ministry of Health yesterday afternoon revised its advice for early childhood centres, saying any that can safely open, may unlock their doors for families from today.
An emergency alert was sent to Aucklanders’ mobile phones at 3.30pm. At exactly the same time, new Prime Minister Chris Hipkins announced, from Wellington, that Cabinet had agreed to another $1 million for Auckland’s flood relief fund.
A sinkhole also opened up in Swanson, West Auckland, last night, taking out power lines. Fire and Emergency NZ were initially called to Scenic Drive about 7.30pm after reports of trees falling on the lines. However, upon arrival, they discovered the sinkhole opening up, causing landslides that were taking the lines with them.
One forecaster warned the new rounds of rainfall - caused by the same stubborn subtropical low that brought Friday’s flooding - could bring 100mm to 200mm to parts of Northland, Auckland and the Coromandel in the coming days.
“The very warm and humid air mass covering Aotearoa brings ripe conditions for persistent, heavy rain plus the risk of thunderstorms which can further intensify the rainfall,” MetService meteorologist Lewis Ferris said.
The MetService said high rainfalls could cause dangerous river conditions and significant flooding.
“Slips and floodwaters are likely to disrupt travel, making some roads impassable and possibly isolating communities,” the MetService said.
An orange heavy rain warning has been issued for Auckland south of Orewa lasting until mid morning, which could cause rivers and streams to rise rapidly, MetService said.
The fresh tranche of warnings came as Aucklanders used a reprieve in the weather to start cleaning up after the worst of the rain on Friday evening.
The Minister for Emergency Management Kieran McAnulty yesterday announced an extra $1 million of funding for Auckland’s Mayoral Relief Fund to help communities.
“This is the most significant contribution to a Mayoral Relief Fund ever and ensures that funding is being provided to the affected communities as quickly as possible,” McAnulty said.
So far, more than 100 homes have been red-stickered and 375 have been yellow-stickered.
Meanwhile, schools and other education centres across Auckland have been told they may be able to open within days if the weather improves and roads are cleared.
Yesterday, Secretary for Education Iona Holsted issued a special bulletin for school leaders apologising for “slow” communications yesterday when she instructed schools, kura, tertiary institutes and early learning centres to close.
Holsted said the direction had been “necessary in order for emergency services to work on fixing road infrastructure”.
The Ministry of Education, however, later said early learning services that can safely open, may unlock their doors for families in their community that need education and care from today.
Some 35 Auckland roads are closed or restricted and an entire section of State Highway 25A on the Coromandel Peninsula has been washed away during the intense weather.
Auckland Transport’s Sarah Bryant said since Friday, AT had closed 82 roads, 35 of which remain closed. 47 had been reopened, she said.
There had been 20 slips on the rail network, she said.
Auckland has experienced record rainfall, with widespread flooding creating hazards for people and properties since Friday.
So far this year the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (Niwa) said Auckland has already recorded 38 per cent of its usual annual rainfall - and 769 per cent of its average January rainfall.
This month is also likely to go down as one of Auckland’s dreariest Januarys on the books with the city averaging a paltry five hours of sunshine each day.
Auckland Mayor Wayne Brown declared a state of emergency for the region on Friday night, which came into force immediately and will last seven days.
“Stay home if you can,” Brown said. “The ground is so saturated, that if anything [the coming rain] could be worse than Friday.”
Due to the widespread flooding, slips and extensive damage, some businesses are asking office staff to work from home, while others have closed their doors until further notice.
The New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) is on standby at two bases in the Auckland region to assist if required.
There are also military liaison officers at the Auckland Emergency Centre, the Warkworth Civil Defence Centre, and in Northland.
“There are a couple of Unimog trucks with supplies at RNZAF Base Auckland available if needed to reach flood-affected areas. Other supplies are at RNZAF Base Auckland if these are needed,” an NZDF spokesperson said.
MetService forecaster Georgina Griffiths told media yesterday the warnings were “on track” and would see rain pummel the upper North Island as predicted.
As well as the red and orange rain warnings, a new heavy rain watch has been issued for parts of Tasman, Westland, Waikato and Mount Taranaki.
Meanwhile, the storm-ravaged Waitomo District Council urged residents to have a grab bag and emergency supplies ready in case they need to evacuate in the middle of the night. The council says a heavy rain watch is in force for the early hours of tomorrow morning.
Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency regional manager of maintenance and operations Jacqui Hori-Hoult said contractors have worked hard to clear some slips and debris on SH1 at the Brynderwyns, but because there’s a very real risk of further slipping at any time, they made the decision to keep the stretch closed for now.