A New Zealand forecaster has branded the impending cyclone set to hit the top of the North Island as one of the “most serious storms of the century”.
There remains uncertainty over the exact path the newly-formed Cyclone Gabrielle will take as it moves near New Zealand, but WeatherWatch’s Philip Duncan says a “direct hit” is “looking more likely and extremely concerning”.
“Whilst no official warnings are yet locked in this far in advance, the data this morning means the likelihood of severe weather across much of the North Island looks highly likely,” Duncan said.
“If this current modelling comes true, this will likely be the most serious storm to impact New Zealand this century - especially with Auckland being in the mix for a potential direct hit.”
Duncan warned winds could reach up to 150km/h in some areas, peaking late Monday and early Tuesday from the east while the storm was likely to bring between 200 and 300mm of rain or even more in some North Island ranges.
NIWA is warning most models show the cyclone making landfall in the North Island on Monday or Tuesday.
“Should this occur, very heavy rain, damaging winds and dangerous seas would be expected.”
Metservice agrees it is looking more likely Gabrielle will bring severe weather to New Zealand shores, with most models showing it will hit the country.
“Damaging winds, flooding rain and coastal inundation are things to watch out for from Sunday onward.”
At least three models show it will sit north of the country on Saturday night.
Today’s forecasting has prompted Northland Civil Defence to prepare for the storm.
“MetService New Zealand are starting to get a better picture of Cyclone Gabrielle and It’s looking more and more likely that it will bring severe weather to our shores,” Northland Civil Defence said on Facebook.
“MetService currently has moderate confidence of severe gales for Northland on Sunday, with high confidence of warning amounts of rain and gales for Northland from Monday to Tuesday.
“Very large waves and a storm surge are also expected to affect northern and eastern coastlines from Northland to Gisborne from Sunday into Monday.”
They urged people to keep up to date with the latest weather information and prepare for severe weather.
Cyclone Gabrielle, named by the Australia Bureau of Meteorology yesterday, was recently confirmed to become a category three weather event.
MetService is expecting the cyclone to bring severe weather to the upper North Island from Sunday through to Wednesday, with waves of up to 8m slamming into the coastline at the top of the North Island and Coromandel on Monday night.
Large waves are likely on the northern and eastern coasts from Northland to Gisborne on Sunday and Monday, MetService says.
MetService this morning said the cyclone was intensifying in the Coral Sea and was likely to start impacting the upper North Island from Sunday.
Easterly winds were expected to pick up about northern parts of the North Island during the weekend and Gabrielle was likely to approach the North Island on Monday, moving onto northern parts of the Island on Tuesday.
The service predicts a high chance of warning amounts of rain for Northland, Auckland, Coromandel Peninsula, northern and eastern Waikato, Bay of Plenty and northern Gisborne from Monday to Tuesday.
In southern Gisborne and Hawke’s Bay, heavy rain was most likely to hit on Tuesday. There is “low confidence” of warning amounts of rain for the remainder of Waikato, Waitomo, Taumarunui, Taupo and northern Taranaki on Tuesday.
In addition, from Monday to Tuesday there is high confidence severe gales from an easterly quarter will affect northern and central parts of the North Island, from Northland southwards to the central high country and Hawke’s Bay, turning southwest about Northland and possibly Auckland on Tuesday. Also on Tuesday, there is high confidence that east to southeast winds will reach severe gale about southern parts of the North Island from Taranaki to Wellington and Wairarapa, also about Marlborough, Nelson and northern Buller.
Meteorologists have warned the tropical cyclone could unleash a month’s worth of rain in just days.
Hauraki Gulf Weather is also of the opinion the storm was likely to hit the country.
“The cone of uncertainty is narrowing. The latest official BoM extended track map snakes Cyclone Gabrielle into the upper North Island impacting Sun to Wed.”
Forecaster Niwa said high ocean temperatures along Cyclone Gabrielle’s initial track are offering energy toward a fast intensification.
MetService has put out fresh reminders of what the cyclone could mean for areas that are affected by it, including how strong winds can damage trees, powerlines and unsecured structures.
Strong winds could also make driving conditions hazardous, especially for high-sided vehicles and motorcycles.
Heavy rain has the potential to make streams and rivers rise rapidly, cause surface flooding and slips and also make driving conditions hazardous.
Forecaster Hauraki Gulf Weather said a synoptic scale rotation is now quite evident on the satellite loop as it continues to track over the Coral Sea.
Thames Coromandel District Council civil defence controller Garry Towler is considering the options of the current State of Emergency given the possible intensity of the cyclone which is due to start building from Monday.
”We will have a much clearer picture by Friday, February tenth on where the cyclone is tracking and what we are likely to face on the Coromandel next week, so having the wide range of powers and access to resources if we need them will be the key as to whether we stay in a declared or transition state,” he said.
Whāngarei Mayor Vince Cocurullo told RNZ it was early days and there would be a clearer idea of what the effect on the region would be by Friday.
He told Northlanders to be prepared, especially those in flood-prone areas.
“For Northland especially, it does come down to when the high tides also come. The high tides are peaking at about one o’clock on Sunday and Monday. As long as you’re preparing yourself for a tidal surge at the same time, that’s when problems really happen in the flood-prone areas.”
He said people needed to make sure their drains were clean before the storm came and keep checking in with MetService and Civil Defence and be aware of what the latest forecast was.
Auckland Emergency Management controller Rachel Kelleher said there would be a “settled run” of weather in the city this week.
She said people should use this break in the weather to clean up from last week’s flooding and prepare for possible severe weather this weekend.