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Wild weather was last night lashing the upper North Island as heavy rain and high tides combined to keep authorities and residents on high alert for more coastal flooding.

Civil Defence warned people to stay home at the end of a day that saw dozens of Auckland homes flooded; the partial closure of swamped motorways and roads; cars submerged in suburban streets; and boats ripped from moorings.

Many Aucklanders took to Twitter. "I swear my house just shook," said Georgia Alyse.

"The trees outside look like they are about to uproot. Flooding in Auckland. Ahhh"

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Two seriously injured surfers were last night taken to Tauranga Hospital after being rescued by the coastguard in heavy seas off Maketu, Bay of Plenty. One of the men was in a critical condition.

Heavy rain warnings issued by MetService remained in place for all districts from Wanganui and Hawkes Bay north. The centre of the deep low which was causing the unsettled weather was shifting south from Auckland to the Bay of Plenty overnight.

It carried with it a storm surge which Civil Defence officials believed would cause more flooding.

Firefighters were yesterday called to 150 weather-related incidents, mainly in Auckland, but also in Waikato, Coromandel and Bay of Plenty.

"Areas that have already flooded are likely to suffer flooding again at high tide," Auckland Civil Defence controller Clive Manley said last night. "The combination of a high tide and strong winds means the worst may be yet to come."

Residents of Herald Island, in West Auckland, were last night sandbagging to protect their properties from the 11.30pm king tide - when the centre of the low was due.

A homeowner said it had been about 10 years since the island flooded but "it wasn't as bad as this, this one was a real little goodie". About 30 homes flooded yesterday and they were at risk again.

More than 140mm of rain fell in 24 hours. This, combined with the king tide about 10am yesterday, created huge storm surges which spilled over seawalls.

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Several roads, including part of Tamaki Drive, were closed, with kayakers replacing cars.

City-bound lanes of Auckland's Northwestern Motorway were closed for four-and-a-half hours after the tide began lapping around cars. When it retreated, it clogged the motorway with debris. A south-bound section of motorway near the harbour bridge was also closed for an hour.

The king tide stretched into the lower streets of downtown Auckland. Firefighters fought to clear commercial premises, which became waterlogged as rainfall compounded the tide.

Building manager Michael Urquhart said the flooding was "unprecedented" in the lower CBD, and had poured into basements on Quay St.

A flash flood swallowed some of Portland Rd in Remuera when stormwater reservoirs reached their limit.

Trees fell in nearby Belmont Terrace, one of them striking a parked vehicle.

In the harbour, boats were torn from moorings, with several beached and one 8.5m yacht smashed into splinters at Red Beach.

Ferries to Great Barrier Island were cancelled due to the torrid conditions.

Bucklands Beach residents watched the tide breach the seawall on The Parade, submerging the street and seeping into six low-lying homes.

Resident Samantha Boston said homeowners were on edge for an hour as the tide kept advancing, with electricity cut to the street as power boxes were submerged "in a ball of smoke, sparks, and explosions".

The storm also swept through the Coromandel Peninsula, Waikato and the Bay of Plenty. The main road into Pauanui was cut off for 45 minutes due to flooding, and the Desert Road in the central North Island was also closed.

About 300 campers were evacuated from a low-lying Taupo campground as authorities prepared for widespread flooding. Flood advisory notices were issued warning those close to rivers and lakes to prepare for rising levels for another two days.

Lake Taupo increased 2cm in an hour yesterday and was continuing to rise.

Waikato Civil Defence duty officer Adam Munro said that while the Coromandel Peninsula, Hauraki Plains and Lake Taupo were of concern, high river levels were also expected in the slower moving Waipa and Waikato Rivers, with forecast flows approaching those seen during the summer 2004 flood.

Officials said that in addition to flood risk, people needed to be aware that potentially damaging winds of up to 120km/hr were forecast for the Coromandel Peninsula.

Emergency 111 calls were still being received last night, mostly for the Rotorua and Taupo areas as the system moved south.

While the low is expected to leave by tomorrow, a new threat is approaching in the form of Tropical Cyclone Wilma. The cyclone is currently moving south in the Pacific, and could reach the North Island by Friday.