- Nine states of emergency - Auckland, Northland, Coromandel, Bay of Plenty, Gisborne, Ōpōtiki, Waikato, Hauraki and Whakatane
- Tens of thousands homes are without power across North Island - and warnings some might wait up to seven days to get reconnected
- Almost 800 storm-related emergency callouts in the 12 hours to 1am with a spike overnight to flooding, slips, and evacuations
- Grab and go: A list of what to pack in a ‘grab bag’
- Cyclone’s latest track, region-by-region warnings, shelter locations and all you need to know
- Advice for how to cope with stress and anxiety
A firefighter is unaccounted for and residents of a street have been evacuated after two houses collapsed in a slip at Auckland’s Muriwai, the Herald understands. It comes as Cyclone Gabrielle pummels North Island regions, with major flooding and slips cutting off many residents and homes - and sparking an urgent plea from authorities for those who are safe to stay home today.
Emergency services have seen a sharp rise in callouts overnight across many regions - including to “a number of collapsed houses in Auckland”; trees fallen on homes; flooding; slips; and burst riverbanks. In total, there have been almost 800 storm-related callouts in the 12 hours to 1am including 59 between 12am and 1am - six in Northland; 12 in Auckland; 24 in Waikato; four in Bay of Plenty, two in Gisborne and 11 in Hawke’s Bay.
Emergency services rushed to the beach settlement of Muriwai, 42km northwest of Auckland, about 10.50pm as heavy rain and strong winds pummelled the region - Fire and Emergency (FENZ) told the Herald it had received reports two houses had collapsed. Police said they were responding to an incident on Motutara Rd; the Herald understands a firefighter remains unaccounted for.
“We can confirm there are people trapped at one of the collapsed houses,” FENZ said. “There are several [search and rescue] teams and fire crews on site from across Tamaki Makaurau. This is an evolving situation and necessitated an evacuation of residents in Motutara and Domain Roads to the local Surf Life Saving Club.”
Cyclone Gabrielle’s fury is being felt across many regions of the North Island, from Northland through to Auckland, Coromandel, Bay of Plenty, Waikato, Gisborne and Hawke’s Bay. Nine regions have declared states of emergency and tens of thousands of people are without power, while other settlements, such as Piha on Auckland’s west coast, have been cut off by floods and slips.
Western Bay of Plenty declared a local state of emergency at 10.40pm and residents in Athenree, Maketu and Waihi Beach were told they were at serious risk of flooding from coastal surges. Further east, up to 500 homes in Ōpōtiki are being evacuated over flooding fears.
Gisborne residents in low-lying areas have also been asked to leave their homes due to rising rivers and surface flooding endangering properties. And there’s been a break in Gisborne City’s water supply with locals being urged to conserve water.
Fifty apartments in central Auckland have been also evacuated over fears a tower will collapse as heavy rain and winds whipped up by Gabrielle.
Coromandel residents have also been enduring a “miserable” night - dramatic images show the main highway to Hahei was already flooded by early evening, forcing people to abandon their cars.
The evacuations come as Cyclone Gabrielle is expected to continue moving southeast as it strikes New Zealand - latest MetService forecasts warn of more “significant heavy rain and damaging winds” today. MetService says Gabrielle will track close to the east coast of the North Island, before moving to the southeast from late Tuesday. “This is a widespread and significant weather event. Significant heavy rain and damaging winds are impacting many parts of northern and central New Zealand. In addition, large waves, storm surges and coastal inundation are affecting exposed eastern coasts of the North Island,” the forecaster said.
Red Warnings for heavy rain remain in force for Northland, Auckland, the Coromandel Peninsula, Gisborne and Hawke’s Bay. Red warnings for severe gales remain in place for Northland, Auckland, the Coromandel Peninsula, and Taranaki.
STORY CONTINUES AFTER LIVE BLOG:
The central Auckland apartments, in Mt Eden, have been evacuated after fears a 109-year-old steel tower could collapse. Auckland Emergency Management has tonight established a temporary exclusion zone around the Colonial Ammunition Company Shot Tower. Controller Mace Ward said the forecast high winds and bad weather could cause the 30-metre tower to collapse, damaging surrounding buildings.
“I have directed the evacuation of buildings surrounding the historic Colonial Ammunition Company Shot Tower based on engineering advice from Tonkin & Taylor, and MetService, earlier this evening,” Ward said. “Our building assessment team, alongside welfare officers and the police have been on site alerting residents of around 50 apartments that they need to urgently leave their homes.”
Residents across other Auckland suburbs are also being evacuated as Cyclone Gabrielle bears down on the upper North Island, bringing extreme weather. Multiple homes are being evacuated in Birkenhead on the North Shore due to falling trees.
MetService has urged Aucklanders to be alert to heavy rain, flooding, and slips hitting the region and for storm surges during tonight’s 2am high-tide in east coast areas. Transport bosses have warned Aucklanders to avoid non-urgent travel and that roads are blocked by flooding, trees and debris. Numerous roads in Piha to the west are blocked by slips and flooding and locals are being told to seek shelter at the surf club and RSA.
At an Auckland emergency response briefing, deputy controller Rachel Kelleher said: “We’re certainly not out of the woods yet. I can’t stress this enough, please have a plan to leave if you see water levels rising around you. Do not wait to be told to leave if you think you’re in danger.”
A photo sent to the Herald shows two people abandoning their cars and walking through dangerous flood waters on the road to Hahei in the Coromandel.
Coromandel officials say the region is “on one knee now” and expecting a “miserable, uncomfortable night”. Hauraki and Waikato declared emergencies shortly after 4pm on Monday, following Whakatāne District’s move at 3pm. Prime Minister Chris Hipkins, announcing a $11.5 million relief package, said the cyclone was “exhausting for families” but warned residents to be ready as the “worst was yet to come”.
On the East Coast, a family of eight are stuck in a vehicle after being forced to evacuate to higher ground when a bridge was completely inundated with floodwaters. An Uawa Tolaga Bay Civil Defence spokesperson told the Herald the family, with infant children, were in contact with authorities after an “ill-advised” decision to attempt to drive across the Arero Rd bridge over the Hikuwai River. There was no immediate threat to their safety while they were on the hill, the spokesperson said, and Civil Defence authorities are in contact with them every hour.
Fire and Emergency NZ say the number of 111 calls is increasing in Northland, Auckland and Coromandel, and they are prioritising the response to calls where life and safety is at risk. “Please remember to call 111 when life and safety are at risk so the people who urgently need help can get through to us.”
WeatherWatch reported: “The storm’s centre is powering up further overnight, to the east of Great Barrier Island. Air pressure will likely drop at the centre until about dawn.”
Meanwhile, numerous Countdown supermarkets in the North Island are closing early this afternoon and tonight. The supermarkets and their closing times are listed in the Herald’s live blog below. And Gabrielle’s impacts stretch to Cook Strait, where interisland ferries have been cancelled for 24 hours from 2am tomorrow, in light of heavy rain and wind warnings.
Thames Coromandel District Council Civil Defence controller Garry Towler told Newstalk ZB at 4pm that the cyclone was “starting to really impact us now” with severe conditions on the eastern seaboard. ”Storm surge is a big concern of ours. It’s going to be a miserable, uncomfortable night for the Coromandel,” he said. “We’re on one knee now, this could be a big blow.”
Properties are beginning to flood in Coromandel towns such as Whitianga while further north, in Northland, people in low-lying areas of Whangārei - close to the rivers in the CBD and Town Basin - have been asked by local emergency officials to evacuate because of a high risk of tidal flooding.
Up to 500 homes are expected to be evacuated in Ōpōtiki ahead of a 1.30am Tuesday high tide. “We are expecting large sea swells and inundation along low-lying areas of Ōpōtiki’s coastline,” said the local council. “We are taking action now to avoid a scramble in the middle of the night as the situation worsens. We are currently evacuating residents in low-lying areas of Ohiwa Spit, Kutarere, the Tirohanga Motor Camp, and low-lying areas along SH35 - Opape, Torere, Maraenui, Whanarua Bay, Waihau Bay, Raukokore, and Whangaparaoa.”
Waikato District Mayor Jacqui Church said the decision to declare a state of emergency was made with safety at the forefront of council’s mind. ”With the worst of the weather due to hit overnight, we want to ensure that we are ready to respond taking whatever action necessary to keep our people safe. The decision was made based on modelling and a risk assessment which indicates several areas of high risk, including low-lying areas near the Waikato river at Port Waikato.”
High-tide storm surge, flooding fears for Auckland
MetService forecaster Georgina Griffiths said Auckland was seeing a pause in winds whipped up Cyclone Gabrielle - but rain was on the way. Localised impacts, such as flooding and slips, were likely, she said, although not everyone would see the heavy rain. She said residents were about halfway through the cyclone impacts, with a better weather forecast from Wednesday.
Parts of Auckland that had not yet seen challenging wind conditions were likely to see them tomorrow and Great Barrier Island - which was very close to the cyclone - was in for a “hard night”, she said. The central pressures of Cyclone Gabrielle were very low and did “pack a punch”.
A 2am high tide in Auckland could bring about half-a-metre storm surge on the east coastline of the city. There would be extremely large waves of 5-8m, she said.
The wind was the “top problem”, causing a lot of power outages. Gusts have already reached 160km/h at Great Barrier Island. The rain this morning had saturated the ground, meaning some areas could expect localised slips and flooding when heavier rain arrived this afternoon.
Auckland Mayor Wayne Brown said the next 24 hours would be challenging for all Aucklanders. He urged people to continue to keep an eye on those around them.
The military was responding to those who needed help and support. He asked those who needed help to be patient as they were at full capacity.
Vector chief operating officer Peter Ryan said 12,000 homes and businesses are without power. While thousands were having their power restored, others were losing power at the same time, so the figure was fluctuating, he said. “We’ve already seen the impact Cyclone Gabrielle is having on Northland and Coromandel,” he said.
Vector had been preparing for the cyclone since the warnings began but the saturated soils meant trees were coming down easily.
Ryan said crews were facing a tough job in the field and there were hundreds of people working on the Vector network trying to restore power.
He acknowledged how difficult it was for people to go without power. However, he said he wanted customers to be prepared for the chance of extended outages. Treat fallen power lines as live at all times, he warned.
Keheller said the effects of the cyclone would worsen before they got better and we were “not out of the woods yet”.
She urged Aucklanders not to be complacent, and to take action if they felt unsafe. Everyone should avoid non-essential travel and if you were an essential worker, you should be guided by your employer as to whether you should come to work.
Officials urged residents not to put any flood-damaged items on the kerbside or in rubbish bins, as these can be hazardous and rubbish pick-up has been paused.
The Auckland City Mission will be offering shelter for people experiencing homelessness.
Fire and Emergency New Zealand district manager Brad Mosby said in the 12 hours to 1pm Monday, there had been 198 northern region incidents logged in relation to the weather - 91 in Northland, 62 in Auckland and 35 in Waikato, mainly from the Coromandel.
Mosby said they were setting up “sectors” in Tāmaki Makaurau which would act as staging areas for other emergency areas, including police and St John. “I want to give confidence to our communities that Fire and Emergency have the capability to respond [to this weather event. We are working in close liaison with our emergency management partners.”
The number of 111 calls was expected to increase steeply, he said.
Colonel Mel Childs of the New Zealand Defence Force said staff had been working alongside regional emergency management officials to respond to the cyclone. There were around 150 personnel positioned in different regions ready to go if needed.
Childs said in the past 24 hours, the personnel had helped establish the emergency centres and deliver supplies such as mattresses, blankets and warm clothes.
Auckland Transport’s Stacey van der Putten thanked Aucklanders for listening to the agency’s advice. Aucklanders had been urged to stay home and off the roads unless it was absolutely necessary.
Van der Putten said Kiwirail had extended its suspension of all passenger train services until midday tomorrow. There are bus replacement services at certain lines in place.
Scheduled bus services are running but there may be delays, detours and cancellations. Bus services are running for schools.
Ferry services have been “significantly disrupted” by the poor weather. All services will finish early tonight.
Motorists are urged to avoid coastal roads due to the high risk posed by the storm surges.
EARLIER LIVE BLOG:
‘Not through the worst of it yet’
At a briefing from the National Crisis Management Centre - also known as the Beehive Bunker - Acting Director Civil Defence Emergency Management Roger Ball urged people to stay safe and not take any chances.
The Cyclone Gabrielle weather system was expected to re-curve towards Great Barrier Island this evening.
“We are not through the worst of it yet,” Ball said.
In Whangārei, residents were being urged to stay off the roads. “If you have nowhere safe to go, you can go to the Civil Defence Centre at McKay Stadium, 97 Western Hills Drive, Kensington,” Civil Defence Whangārei said.
“The advice for all other Whangārei residents is to please stay home and stay off the roads, there are a lot of trees down and surface flooding is making driving dangerous.”
There were winds up to 140km/h in Northland and 135km/h in the Hauraki Gulf.
WeatherWatch says Cyclone Gabrielle’s air pressure is expected to drop in the next 24 hours, making the storm more intense. The lowest air pressure from the storm was expected before dawn on Tuesday.
At 8am on Monday, WeatherWatch said the storm was located just north of the country and its slight eastern track for Auckland could reduce storm surge but mean strong southerlies continue longer. “All potentially record-breaking low air pressure.”
On its website, WeatherWatch said in simple terms, the lower the air pressure the more powerful and severe the storm would be. “It makes the storm more unstable and will see wind and rain spread further out. The fact this intensification is going to occur as Gabrielle approaches the Auckland and Coromandel Peninsula regions makes it more problematic and complicated.”
Prime Minister Chris Hipkins chaired Cabinet virtually today - he travelled to Auckland yesterday and the cancellation of almost all flights meant he cannot return to Wellington.
That could also have an impact on the opening of Parliament tomorrow, when Hipkins is due to deliver the PM’s statement setting out his plans for the year.
The flight cancellations around much of the North Island will make it difficult for a lot of MPs to get to Wellington.
It could be up to a week before power is fully restored in the Far North District.
Far North lines company Top Energy said damage to the network was extensive with hazardous conditions impeding repairs and access.
As at 8am today, 10,500 households and businesses were without electricity in the district. A further 18,500 are without power in Whangārei and Kaipara.
“Cyclone Gabrielle is hitting us hard with more days of heavy rain and wind ahead. Trees, poles and lines are down. Large parts of the network is rural which makes access difficult for the crews who need to carry in equipment for repairs,” Top Energy chief executive Russell Shaw said.
“Repairs are likely to be complex with multiple faults and damaged equipment. We also need to consider the safety of our teams and will not send them out in unsafe conditions.”
The company is working closely with Northland Civil Defence and other essential service agencies responding under the State of Emergency. Any customers across Northland with welfare concerns should contact Civil Defence directly on 09 4701200.
PowerCo is reporting about 10,600 properties without power across the Coromandel and surrounding Hauraki District towns.
Foodstuffs NZ said today that some of its stores were dealing with power cuts as a result of the wild weather but that all supermarkets were still well-stocked.
North Island CEO Chris Quin said a handful of Four Square stores were experiencing “intermittent power issues” and staff were working on getting them back online as quickly as possible.
He said the company’s supply chain and stores - which also included New World and Pak’n’Save - were in good shape because delivery trucks all reached their destinations ahead of the storm.
“So far today our stores are fairly quiet and depending on the weather, each local store’s opening and closing times may vary, so we recommend customers check their local store’s Facebook page or webpage before setting out to come in.
“Bread, milk and bottled water were in high demand. We’ve got good supplies of water, our in-store bakeries have been ramping up production to help keep up with bread demand - and some of our supply partners have also been changing their approaches to increase production.”
Quin reiterated that customers should only buy what they need for two or three days.
All domestic flights in and out of Auckland today were cancelled, and turboprop flights through Hamilton, Tauranga and Taupō were suspended until midday Tuesday.
The cancellations were made to keep customers, staff and aircraft safe, Air New Zealand chief operational integrity and safety officer Captain David Morgan said.
Five long-haul international arrivals into Auckland today have been cancelled, as well as departures, Morgan said. All Tasman and Pacific Island flights today have been cancelled.
New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Singapore arrivals were operating as normal but may be required to divert to another New Zealand airport, Morgan said.
AEM said 27 civil defence centres and shelters were opened to provide refuge for families who needed to leave their homes last night to shelter from the cyclone.
A further 12 community-led centres were being stood up by community groups at marae, in local churches or in local buildings. Locations were listed on the AEM website.
There are now 30 weather alerts that cover the entire North Island and a growing number of regions in the South Island for today and tomorrow.