Flooded homes, people trapped in cars, a huge tornado and closed highways have impacted Northland tonight as wild weather hits the region.

Northland residents are being warned to hunker down as a series of severe thunderstorms, accompanied by torrential rain, hit Whangarei.

Police are urging people not to travel tonight saying there are numerous flooded roads and closures are expected throughout many parts of the region.

The warnings come on the back of a busy night for emergency services.

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They have received multiple reports of people trapped in their cars due to flooding on State Highway 1 near Puketona in the Far North.

A Fire and Emergency spokesperson said firefighters have been called to 200 incidents in the central Whangarei area in the four hours from 6pm.

Between 8-9pm tonight Whangarei recorded its wettest July hour on record with 39.6 mm.

Some residents have chosen to abandon their homes due to flooding and welfare centres have also been opened at Kamo Scout Dean in Tikipunga and the Onerahi Community Hall in Whangarei.

"There has been heavy rain around the Whangarei area with multiple flooding events across the city," a Fire and Emergency spokesperson said.

"We recommend people stay safe in their homes and contact the local civil defence."

A resident in Cobble Lane, just off Rawhiti St in the Whangarei suburb of Morningside, said she could see people being evacuated from their homes near the hall.

It looked like they were wading through ankle deep water before climbing onto a big truck of some sort.

Police and Fire and Emergency both confirmed they were attending an job on Rawhiti St as of 8.30pm.

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Murray Soljak, of Northland's Civil Defence Emergency Management, said it was not a state of emergency but he expected it to be a very busy night.

The tornado out at sea in the Far North.
The tornado out at sea in the Far North.

MetService forecaster Gerard Bellam said Whangārei had received the biggest thunderstorm of the day just before 7pm.

"Unfortunately tomorrow we've got periods of rain. Some possibly heavy falls, and there are some thunderstorms again also possible north of Whangārei," Bellam said.

"In the meantime we've nearly had about 50mm in the last hour in Whangārei airport just before 7pm. That's another thunderstorm."

Severe thunderstorms in Northland have flooded State Highway 1, closed roads between Okaihau and Kaitaia and at Moerewa near Bay of Islands.

Niwa Weather reported 500-plus lightning strikes in Northland today, and 125mm of rain in the Far North.

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Elsewhere, a video of a huge tornado out at sea was filmed near Tupou Bay in the Far North after midday today.

Bellam said the weather in Northland was to be serious again tomorrow, and residents could expect further rain.

A 200m stretch of Waimate North Rd is inundated by a flooded Waitangi River. Photo / Peter de Graaf
A 200m stretch of Waimate North Rd is inundated by a flooded Waitangi River. Photo / Peter de Graaf

A severe thunderstorm warning was issued for Northland at midday.
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At 5pm today, Northland police warned motorists SH1 between Ohaeawai and Kawakawa has been closed because of rising floodwater at Moerewa.

Roadblocks are in place at the northern side of Moerewa at the base of Turntable Hill and police are diverting traffic through SH10 and SH11.

A large slip had also closed SH25 in the Coromandel between Hikuai and McBeth Rd and it is expected to remain closed overnight.

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Following high tide and steady rain today, Thames Coromandel Civil Defence Controller Garry Towler was urging motorists to avoid travel on the South Eastern seaboard roads.

However, MetService's Bellam said rain in the Coromandel was to ease tomorrow.

MetService has also issued a heavy rain warning for Northland north of Whangārei and Dargaville.

Valid to 9pm, it says to expect 30-60mm of rain in addition to what has already fallen, especially in the north and east.

A ute negotiates a flooded Waimate North Rd. Photo / Peter de Graaf
A ute negotiates a flooded Waimate North Rd. Photo / Peter de Graaf

The MetService explained on Twitter that a low pressure system is creating the wild weather across the north of New Zealand:

Whangamata Golf course under water. Photo / Supplied - www.lynnclaytonphotography.com
Whangamata Golf course under water. Photo / Supplied - www.lynnclaytonphotography.com

"The low has nowhere to go! This weekend's weather will be a "rinse and repeat" of today as the low continues to direct a cloudy, northeast flow across the north, and a ridge maintains settled weather to the south."

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Elsewhere, 60-90mm of rain is expected to hit Gisborne north of Tolaga Bay until late tonight.

Wild weather in the region has caused the cancellation of Good Vibes NZ Festival after heavy rain and wind battered Coromandel overnight.

Waikato, including Te Aroha and the Coromandel Peninsula have been hardest hit by a deluge of rain and strong winds that dragged down powerlines and left locals without power.

Power outages were reported in nearly 150 homes, as strong winds ripped powerlines and trees to the ground.

Cyclone-strength winds battering Te Aroha for the past few days left 86 homes in the dark, and trees flattening powerlines have affected 65 properties in Tapu on the Thames coast.

Thirteen people were forced to stay an extra night at the Pinnacles Hut and were to be escorted down today.

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Winds gusting to 100km/h continued into the night and residents were warned to prepare for further power outages as trees and roofs came down on the network.

A Fire and Emergency New Zealand (Fenz) crew was called to a toppled-over shed in Te Aroha shortly before 11pm.

Down south, low-lying areas around Otago and Southland have been freezing all week.

Without any sun, most towns have barely escaped freezing sub-zero temperatures. The clear skies have led to cold nights and Queenstown was a frosty -4.5C just before dawn this morning.

The National Emergency Management Agency is advising Northlanders to:
• Take shelter, preferably indoors away from windows.
• Avoid sheltering under trees, if outside.
• Get back to land, if outdoors on the water.
• Move cars under cover or away from trees.
• Secure any loose objects around your property.
• Check that drains and gutters are clear.
• Be ready to slow down or stop, if driving.

During and after the storm:
•Beware of fallen trees and powerlines.
•Avoid streams and drains as you may be swept away in flash flooding.

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