A woman was killed in the first big summer storm of the year after a tree fell on her car yesterday, and the deadly storm will keep New Zealand in its grip for another 12 hours.

The storm was expected to bring heavy rain and gale-force winds to the central and lower North Island overnight. And today residents of the Wellington and Kapiti regions – and top of the South Island – have been told to brace for more heavy rain and strong winds until about 4pm.

The MetService has also warned of flooding that could hit Wellington's south coast during high tide this morning, which is expected at 9.11am.

Police confirmed a woman died in Rotorua's Arawa St about 10.45am after a tree fell on the car she was in.

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The tree also hit a building, but no one inside was hurt.

The woman's death in Rotorua's CBD has been referred to the coroner.

The storm will make it hard for holidaymakers returning home over the weekend, with the Thames-Coast Rd one of the hardest hit due to multiple slips, rock falls and sections of the road being washed away by surging waves. Holidaymakers will have to use SH2A via Tairua and Kopu until the road is repaired.

A woman died when a tree fell on her car in Rotorua. Photo / Ben Fraser
A woman died when a tree fell on her car in Rotorua. Photo / Ben Fraser

And police have warned motorists in other flood-affected areas to drive to the conditions and be alert for possible slips.

The weather also wreaked havoc with several big events; rain again scuppered the ASB Classic tennis tournament in Auckland and Bryan Adams' scheduled gig at Mt Maunganui last night has been delayed until Sunday. Cricket fans in Wellington also face disappointment with rain forecast in the capital today; the scene of the opening Black Caps/Pakistan ODI.

The deadly storm will leave a multi million dollar clean up bill, with homes, businesses and key infrastructure needing reapirs. The latter includes a seawall at Hudson's Bay, Awhitu, and a jetty at Halfmoon Bay which was smashed by the bad weather, leaving debris in the water.

At the height of the storm winds were recorded in Auckland of up to 120kmh winds and more rain fell in a 24-hour period than for all of November and December combined.

Domestic flights in and out of Auckland Airport were also impacted by the weather, with 10 cancellations and 12 delays recorded during the day.

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A major slip in Auckland's Birkenhead has worsened after a footpath gave way to the severe weather pummeling the North Island. Photo Greg Bowker
A major slip in Auckland's Birkenhead has worsened after a footpath gave way to the severe weather pummeling the North Island. Photo Greg Bowker

As the clean-up in Auckland began yesterday, the weather system created further havoc down the North Island. Thousands were still without power as 30 outages across the city were reported.

Roads were washed away, holidaymakers were left stranded and power lines were downed due to the hurricane winds and record rainfall.

In and around Gisborne a whopping 200mm fell overnight Thursday and 117mm in the Taranaki ranges yesterday, with widespread damage reported across the North Island as the storm tracked east.

In the Mamaku's near Rotorua 146kmh winds were recorded.

Major roads were closed by flooding and toppled trees including State Highway 25, the Thames Coast Rd, cutting off holidaymakers who had earlier been evacuated from baches and campgrounds.

The road at Te Puru, on the Firth of Thames, was washed away by a king tide about 10.30am and the New Zealand Transport Agency said the entire road was closed from Thames to Manaia, about half way up the Coromandel Peninsula, until further notice.

Waves crash into the rock wall at Buffalo Beach in Whitianga as coastal towns are hammered by the storm that hit the North Island this week. Photo / Alan Gibson
Waves crash into the rock wall at Buffalo Beach in Whitianga as coastal towns are hammered by the storm that hit the North Island this week. Photo / Alan Gibson

An evacuation centre was opened at Te Puru, north of Thames, while on the other side of the Firth of Thames those at Kaiaua village and low-lying areas along East Coast Rd were urged to evacuate to higher ground because of severe flooding.

On the Thames Coast Rd Tapu Camp owner Bruce Efford said the king tide flooded tents and caravans at his campground and he was forced to evacuate 20 families.

Efford said at this time of year he usually hosted 200 campers but many left because of the weather.

"I've had a few that have come back because they can't get through [the SH25 road closure]."

As the storm continued to batter much of the country about 30,000 households and businesses were hit with power cuts.

Parts of Raglan were underwater including Puriri Park after the high tide struck at the tiny Waikato seaside town.

MetService warned western and southern areas along Wellington's southern cost were at risk last night as the storm headed into its second night.

Bystanders photograph a boat that broke its moorings in Auckland's Waitemata Harbour overnight on Thursday after hurricane winds wreaked havoc across the North Island. Photo / Greg Bowker
Bystanders photograph a boat that broke its moorings in Auckland's Waitemata Harbour overnight on Thursday after hurricane winds wreaked havoc across the North Island. Photo / Greg Bowker

The rapidly developing storm arrived on Thursday, sitting off the west coast of the North Island, hitting Taranaki with full force at midday yesterday and slowly shifting east and expected to ease today.

MetService meteorologist April Clark said the inundation of weather that hit the Coromandel and Bay of Plenty was a combination of a sub-tropical low, strong north-easterly wind and the king tide.

"That's why it is having such impact, it's all those three things together that's made it quite unusual for them."