Key Points:

    • State Highway 5 between Napier and Taupo has re-opened
    • Properties evacuated, including students from Hukarere Girls College
    • About 20 people have been evacuated from the Eskdale Holiday Park
    • Eskdale area north of Napier has been hit hard with severe surface flooding
    • More heavy rain are expected until around midnight tonight

Heavy rain and thunder storms lashing Hawke's Bay have closed the Napier-Taupo highway, leaving 100 motorists trapped on flooded roads and forcing evacuations.

The region has been swamped after copping 250mm of rain since midnight as severe weather hits the region on the 30th anniversary of Cyclone Bola.

NZTA have announced Makahu Rd is closed, and slips have closed Glengarry and Waipunga Rds.

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Drivers are advised to use alternative routes.

Heavy rainfall in Hawke's Bay closes roads and causes residents to evacuate their homes.

Hawke's Bay fire services have been called to flooded properties at Eskdale, north of Napier, and Rissington, east of the city, a Hastings Fire spokesman said.

A number of people have evacuated from these areas, and Patoka this morning.

Eskdale has been hit hard with severe flooding, and the Esk River is close to breaking its banks, swollen with water run-off from the surrounding hills.

A submerged tractor in Eskdale. Photo / Paul Taylor
A submerged tractor in Eskdale. Photo / Paul Taylor

A Hawke's Bay Regional Council spokesman said water levels for the Esk River are the highest since 2010.

A number of Eskdale properties are understood to be inundated with surface flooding. Photo / Paul Taylor
A number of Eskdale properties are understood to be inundated with surface flooding. Photo / Paul Taylor

A number of properties have been evacuated, including students from Hukarere Girls' College.

Eskdale Holiday Park owner Daniel Gale spent the morning evacuating about 20 people from the river-side site.

"It's worse than [1988's Cyclone] Bola, and we were here for Bola. It's still bucketing down and the camp is under water.

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"We got everything out and all the people out. Getting the people out was the main thing."

Surface flooding has closed SH5, as the Eskdale River threatens to break its banks. Photo / Paul Taylor
Surface flooding has closed SH5, as the Eskdale River threatens to break its banks. Photo / Paul Taylor

Gale said they knew rain was on the way, but did not realise how extreme it would be until the river alarm went off about 6.30am, and the flooding started.

"There isn't much we can do now, I just hope it doesn't get higher."

He said they would have to start rebuilding next week, redoing all the grounds, and perhaps working on the water supplies, sewage pumps, and electrical lines.

Hawke's Bay Today understands a temporary shelter is being set up for local residents.

About 60 Havelock North Intermediate students have also been evacuated from a school camp at Weka Pt, Rissington.

Principal Julia Beaumont said the two classes went to the camp yesterday, but the school decided today to bring them back.

"Some have gone home because they're really tired, they had a rough night."

A flooded vineyard at SH2, Tangoio. Photo / Paul Taylor
A flooded vineyard at SH2, Tangoio. Photo / Paul Taylor

She said the school had not realised how severe the weather was going to be when the students left yesterday.

Rissington community group spokeswoman Bronwyn said a number of people in the valley had left, and one was fearful her house would shift because of the flooding.

Their rain meter had gauged 210mm of rain since the deluge began yesterday evening.

"It's been quite scary with all the thunder and lightning, it's taken out the power for some people," she said. "I've never felt my house shake so much from thunder."

Her neighbours had said the storm seemed to be worse than Cyclone Bola, and river levels were much higher – nearly at the height of the Rissington bridge.

"It's supposed to get worse. Hopefully we all get through the night okay."

Unison Networks relationship manager Danny Gough said about 120 customers had lost power because of the weather, mostly in the rural areas of Rissington, Patoka and around State Highway 5.

"But so far the network is standing up okay. We'll be keeping an eagle eye on things."

Surface flooding has hit the area north of Napier hard. Photo / Paul Taylor
Surface flooding has hit the area north of Napier hard. Photo / Paul Taylor

A Hawke's Bay Regional Council spokesman said flood alarms were triggered this morning with levels around 670 cubic metres a second and rising. He said the flow had acceded orange alert level.

"Heavy rain continues in the catchment, so river levels may rise further. The rainfall has crossed into the Tutaekuri catchment.

"Some properties have flooded around the Mangaone River on Puketitiri Road, so we're looking at the Tutaekuri River trigger levels for warnings."

Hawke's Bay Civil Defence Emergency Management Group group manager Ian Macdonald said more heavy downpours are expected in isolated areas in rural Hawke's Bay and residents, particularly in the Esk Valley, should prepare to evacuate.

If people have safety concerns they need to ring 111. For the most up-to-date information they should follow the HB Civil Defence Emergency Management Group Facebook page.

MetService issued a severe weather warning for the region this morning as a complex low pressure system over the North Island moved east.

Metservice has issued a thunderstorm warning. photo / supplied.
Metservice has issued a thunderstorm warning. photo / supplied.

Periods of heavy rain are expected until about midnight tonight. Another 70 to 90mm may accumulate, especially about the hills and ranges.

🛑 URGENT. SH5 - Napier to Taupo - NOW OPEN. 🔸 Note: SH2 has also just re-opened. See bit.ly/2Fpttgh for more...

Posted by Napier City Council on Wednesday, 7 March 2018

Peak intensities of 20 to 30mm an hour and thunderstorms are possible in Hawke's Bay from Hastings south.

The Hastings District Council is working on clearing roads to keep routes clear and inspecting routes.

Roads affected by surface flooding and slips in the region are:

Glengarry Rd: Closed (slips)

Waipunga Rd: Closed (slips)

Taihape Rd: Open but small slips throughout

Heays Access Rd: Open but slips reported

Makahu Rd: Closed

Seafield Rd: Closed (fallen tree)