Severe thunderstorm warnings have been issued for large chunks of the central and eastern North Island tonight, as torrential rain lashes Rotorua.

Warnings are in place for the Waikato, Bay of Plenty, Rotorua, Taupo, Gisborne, Hawke's Bay and Taihape.

The wild weather is expected to be accompanied by very heavy rain, potentially causing surface and/or flash flooding about streams, gullies and urban areas, and make driving conditions extremely hazardous.

The thunderstorm forecast for Rotorua has already hit, causing flash flooding and lightning strikes in parts of the city.


MetService meteorologist John Law said in the first hour of the storm hitting Rotorua this evening, about 25mm of rain fell and 200 lightning strikes were recorded.

He said the storm was sliding down the southwest side of the lake and would be "particularly impressive" for those directly beneath it.

"The storms are quite intense and extremely localised. Rotorua temperatures reached 25C today, which would have played its part in bringing the thunderstorms along.

"The temperatures will likely ease off overnight, but we will be keeping a close eye on it tomorrow."

Flooding on Totara St. Photo/Ben Fraser
Flooding on Totara St. Photo/Ben Fraser

There was flash flooding on Totara St and Rotorua Lakes Council was encouraging residents to check around their properties to ensure drains and gutters are clear.

A resident said she saw a bolt of lightning hit a traffic light on Fairy Springs Rd, near Burger Fuel, and believed it had caused the lights to malfunction.

"I was driving out of the carpark and noticed the lightning strike on my left.

"It struck with a loud pop and spark but I wasn't sure what it had hit until I came out on to Fairy Springs Rd and noticed it was the lights."

Traffic lights on Fairy Springs Rd flashing orange. Photo/Ben Fraser
Traffic lights on Fairy Springs Rd flashing orange. Photo/Ben Fraser

Residents on the Rotorua Daily Post Facebook page have been quick to comment on the intensity of the thunder and heavy downpour.

Flooding in Totara St.

Posted by Rotorua Daily Post on Thursday, 11 January 2018

Meanwhile, the council is continuing its clean up from last Friday's storm.

"The clean up following the latest storm in Rotorua will continue for a few weeks yet with high winds causing substantial damage and mess in many parks and reserves around the district. Considerable work is still needed to tidy up parks and residents are urged to continue to take care and to report anything they think requires urgent attention," a statement read.

Areas that need immediate work for public safety reasons are the top priority for council contractors with ongoing clean up and repairs to follow. This includes fallen and damaged trees in high use areas.

Crews are also working through Tokorangi and Whakarewarewa forests inspecting tracks and removing any fallen trees or storm debris.

"It will take some time for all inspections to be completed so visitors to the forest and other woodland reserves should be extra vigilant as some trees could be unstable following the storm."

High water levels also damaged some lakeside reserves. The wall at Gisborne Point was eroded and there was some damage to paving at the lakefront. People are urged to continue to take care while around any rivers, streams or lake edges for the next few days.

Staying safe
- Avoid any unnecessary travel during stormy weather or downpours;
- Drive to the conditions if you do need to;
- Stay away from waterways;
- Call (07) 348 4199 any time day or night for assistance or to report issues.
* Rotorua Lakes Council