- 18 heavy rain and strong wind warnings and watches have been issued across the North Island including Auckland, Northland, Coromandel, Bay of Plenty, Gisborne and Hawke’s Bay
- Rain set to hit many areas from Sunday through to Tuesday
- Grab and go: A list of what to pack in a ‘grab bag’
Heavy rain is now falling across Auckland, Northland, Coromandel and other North Island areas as Tropical Cyclone Gabrielle hits New Zealand. Residents are being urged to avoid non-essential travel, while MetService has upgraded rain and wind alert levels for many regions.
There are 18 rain and wind warnings for the North Island for up to two days. Northland and Auckland are now under orange heavy rain warnings - and Coromandel is under the highest red warning. The East Coast, north of Tolaga Bay, comes under the red warning from 3pm today. Heavy rain watches and/or strong wind warnings are in place for most North Island regions, with latest timings detailed in the liveblog below.
Authorities in the Coromandel are asking some residents to self-evacuate now with Cyclone Gabrielle due to hit the area earlier than first thought. In their latest update to residents, officials said “a very severe and destructive cyclone is descending on Coromandel” - due to arrive fully on Sunday afternoon. “We are going to have over 400mm of rain, with wind gusts in excess of 140 to 150km/h ... seriously consider preparing to evacuate if you are in areas that are prone to flooding or areas that are going to be inundated with coastal surge,” they said.
Far North resident Lennox Goodhue-Wikitera told the Herald that Gabrielle’s storm system was already hitting New Zealand.
Goodhue-Wikitera said strong wind and rain had started in Ahipara, near Kaitaia, just before 9pm on Saturday. “It windy and getting worse. It’s really strong gusts of wind and the rain has just started. It’s not heavy yet but it’s slowly getting heavier and heavier.”
Goodhue-Wikitera said their home was exposed, being across the road from the beach and next to a creek. “When it rains, the creek fills up and sometimes it can flood onto the property.”
Goodhue-Wikitera said swells from the beach could also sometimes wash in and meet with the creek, raising the water levels higher. If the waters did rise in the next few days, they could always seek shelter higher up the hill in Ahipara where they have family.
“Independent of the eventual track, there is a very high risk of extreme and impactful weather over the upper North Island late Saturday then spreading south to central New Zealand by Monday,” MetService said in its latest update.
Officials are warning that strong winds are likely to close the Auckland Harbour Bridge tomorrow as Gabrielle hits, Air New Zealand has cancelled several flights and MetService has issued 18 rain and wind warnings/watches across the North Island as the storm nears.
As locals swamp supermarkets to get essential supplies, Countdown and Foodstuffs are urging people to only buy what they need and say staff are replenishing stock.
Kiwis in the upper North Island are being urged to avoid non-essential travel today. “Our advice to people in all areas affected by the predicted heavy rain and strong winds is to avoid any non-urgent travel,” Waka Kotahi’s Mark Owen said.
Owen said with winds forecast to gust up to 130km/h or higher in Auckland from early Sunday morning, it is likely that the Auckland Harbour Bridge will need to close on short notice. “Driving on the bridge with winds gusting at those extreme speeds is unsafe, particularly for motorcycles and high-sided vehicles. We are constantly monitoring wind speeds on the bridge, and with severe wind gusts possible from early tomorrow morning right through to Tuesday evening, lane closures or full bridge closures may be put in place at any time.”
STORY CONTINUES AFTER LIVE BLOG:
Coromandel evacuation plea
Authorities in the Coromandel are asking some residents to self-evacuate now with Cyclone Gabrielle due to hit the area earlier than first thought.
In their latest update to residents, officials said “a very severe and destructive cyclone is descending on Coromandel” and is now due to arrive on Sunday afternoon.
“We are going to have over 400mm of rain, with wind gusts in excess of 140 to 150km/h ... seriously consider preparing to evacuate if you are in areas that are prone to flooding or areas that are going to be inundated with coastal surge,” they said.
Emergency services may not be able to reach people in their time of need and so are asking people to consider self-evacuation.
“If you feel you need to evacuate, please evacuate now,” officials said in an update to residents.
“Make sure you’re safe by Sunday night.”
Coromandel and the East Coast are in the firing line for the heaviest rain, while the first MetService warnings kick into effect tonight.
MetService has issued its highest level of warning - a red warning for heavy rain - for the Coromandel Peninsula, where 300mm to 400mm of rain is expected in the ranges, and Tairāwhiti Gisborne north of Tolaga Bay, where the same numbers are expected throughout the area.
And MetService’s head of weather communication Lisa Murray said the severe weather watch in central Auckland could be upgraded.
“Central Auckland is still under a severe weather watch. It hasn’t been upgraded due to the uncertainty of movement of the cyclone, but it could be in the near future,” Murray said. “Auckland is already sodden from recent events, which could exacerbate impacts of any strong wind and rain.
“Strong wind gusts could damage trees, powerlines and unsecured structures. These already sodden grounds from recent floods increase the likelihood of trees being uprooted from that heavy rain and strong winds, which adds to the risk of power outages,” Murray said.
“Heavy rain will likely cause surface flooding and landslips, as well as hazardous road conditions and road washouts. Heavy rain will also cause streams and rivers to rise rapidly.”
Overall, the forecaster now has 17 warnings or watches in place from Northland to Wellington.
The highest red warnings for heavy rain have been alerted for Coromandel (to 3am Tuesday) and Gisborne, north of Tolaga Bay (from 3pm Sunday to 6am Tuesday).
Orange-level heavy rain warnings have been issued for Northland (until midnight Monday), Auckland, including Great Barrier Island (3am Sunday to 3am Tuesday), Gisborne south of Tolaga Bay (9am Monday to 9am Tuesday) and Hawke’s Bay (10am Monday to 10am Tuesday).
Heavy rain watches are in place for Bay of Plenty and eastern Taupō (10am Monday to 9am Tuesday) and Wairarapa including the Tararua District (noon Monday to noon Tuesday).
Orange strong wind warnings are also in place for Coromandel Peninsula (3pm Sunday to 9am Tuesday with wind gusts possibly higher than 130km/h) and Auckland from Whangaparaoa southwards (4pm Sunday to 9pm Tuesday with gusts also possibly higher than 130km/h).
Further orange strong wind warnings are in place for Northland, and Auckland north of Whangaparaoa, including Great Barrier Island (7am Sunday to 9pm Tuesday with gusts as high as 130km/h) and Waikato and Waitomo, across to Bay of Plenty and Gisborne, including Taupō and Taihape (9am Monday to 9am Tuesday with gusts possibly higher than 130km/h).
A strong wind watch is in place for Hawke’s Bay, Wairarapa including the Tararua District, Taranaki, Whanganui, Manawatu, Horowhenua, Kapiti Coast, Wellington, Marlborough, Nelson, Buller north of Seddonville (6pm Monday to 6pm Tuesday with winds approaching severe gale level).
Harbour Bridge may close
Auckland Transport’s Stacey van der Putten said that while the most severe weather is expected from Monday, Aucklanders can expect to feel Cyclone Gabrielle’s first effects from Sunday and so should take extreme care when out and about.
“Our message is, please take extreme care when travelling on Sunday... Given the wind warning for Sunday, there is a possibility there may restrictions or a closure on the Harbour Bridge, so check for travel updates and plan your full return journey,” she said.
All Air New Zealand flights to or from Kerikeri and Whangārei between noon Sunday and Tuesday morning are cancelled. So too is the last flight into Hamilton and Tauranga on Sunday night. All turboprop flights to, from or through Auckland, Hamilton and Tauranga from noon tomorrow through to noon Monday are cancelled, Air New Zealand says.
The weather warnings come as North Islanders are urged to make the most of today to clear gutters, lay sandbags and “calmly and wisely” prepare for the cyclone’s arrival, set to bring heavy rain, storm surges and severe gusts.
Homes and roads could be damaged across the North Island as heavy downpours of up to 300mm and severe winds gusting 150km/h are tipped to hit. Rain is expected to start falling in many areas from tomorrow and last through until Tuesday afternoon.
Auckland, Northland and Coromandel residents can expect to feel Cyclone Gabrielle’s first effects from Sunday, with the most severe weather expected on Monday and Tuesday.
People are urged to stay off the water as storm surges and waves between five and seven metres are forecast for parts of the northern and eastern coastlines.
They are also asked to stock at least three days’ worth of medicine, water and food, and to prepare for possible power and running water outages along with restricted travel conditions.
MetService warns parts of Gisborne could record 400mm of rain.
‘Prepare to leave if you need to’
Watch today’s 1pm Auckland Emergency Management update below:
Auckland Deputy Mayor Desley Simpson says Cyclone Gabrielle is drawing closer and is set to be an “impactful event”.
Speaking at today’s 1pm Auckland Emergency Management briefing, Simpson said people need to get ready with emergency supplies before tomorrow. “Prepare to leave if you need to,” she said.
Simpson said Mayor Wayne Brown had been with authorities in Mt Eden helping get the city ready.
The MetService will be providing a more detailed weather forecast tomorrow, but the advice so far would differ from the storm a fortnight ago.
Prepare for strong winds and big waves, she said.
“There may be further power outages and we ask that you factor that into your preparation,” she said.
She urged people to check with their employers, schools and kura for their cyclone planning.
The council’s waste management team had been out in Auckland today to finalise kerbside collection.
Simpson urged people not to put any further waste out, and to store it securely.
“Being personally prepared means we can focus at Emergency Management on the places where they are needed the most.
“We are very concerned about the public access to sandbags,” she said. “Use this time carefully to get prepared - let’s get through this together.”
Adam Maggs, controller at Auckland Emergency Management, said the agency had confirmed Civil Defence Centres (CDCs).
There is a CDC or shelter in every local board area across Auckland.
If your life was in danger or your home was flooded then get to a CDC or a shelter, Maggs said.
Pets can be brought to centres and shelters but dogs must be leashed and muzzled where possible and cats in a cage, Maggs said.
He said there was a strong desire from Aucklanders to protect their property with sandbags.
Maggs urged people to look for other ways to protect their property first, and Auckland Emergency Management was urgently working to supply bags and sand at three collection points in Mairangi Bay, St Heliers, and Westgate.
“Demand is significant,” he said.
He recommended people not take sand from the beach due to contamination.
Lockdown flashback: Kiwis rush to supermarkets
Aucklanders have rushed to supermarkets this morning to stock up on essentials.
Photos posted to social media show long queues at all tills and the carpark full at Pak’nSave Wairau Rd on the North Shore, which only recently reopened after floods devastated the store late last month.
Shopper Rose Rasmussen told the Herald she was lucky to get a parking spot and shoppers faced a long wait, adding that the store was “crazy busy” with queues for checkouts going right through the store.
Evacuation shelters are now being activated in Auckland, while airline passengers are urged to reconsider travelling, and the University of Auckland has shifted its exams online. Some schools plan to close and businesses are also preparing to have staff work from home.
Gabrielle’s path, impacts
Cyclone Gabrielle’s exact path is not yet known, with more detailed forecasting to be released on Sunday, MetService said. But based on current modelling, Auckland can expect to be hit hard, with the centre of the storm tracking just east of the city and Northland coast and slamming into the Coromandel, Bay of Plenty and Gisborne districts.
“Wind will be a significant issue. This combined with the saturated ground conditions may cause the downing of trees and powerlines, and travel routes may be impacted,” Auckland Emergency Management (AEM) said.
As much as 300mm of rain is forecast for Aotea Great Barrier Island and north Auckland and 100mm-200mm for the rest of the region.
MetService said the predicted rainfall levels were serious, with its warning criteria normally being triggered whenever 100mm of rain falls within a 24-hour period over a widespread area.
“Gabrielle is expected to bring 24-hour rain totals of 300mm or more to some areas,” the forecaster said.
MetService said on Saturday morning that the cyclone was continuing to move southeast and was now in its area of responsibility.
National Party leader Christopher Luxon has postponed his planned state of the nation speech in Auckland this weekend.
The opposition leader was expected to announce new policy but has been forced to call off the speech amid travel warnings due to the cyclone.
Details on Civil Defence centre, Community Support Hubs released
Auckland Emergency Management says one Civil Defence centre is open. This is Hub West in West Auckland’s Henderson.
Community Support Hubs have also been opened which will be staffed by government welfare and support services.
The Auckland Emergency Management pop-up support hub in Henderson has been bustling this morning and has been for two weeks since the city’s fatal record-breaking downpour. Dozens of people sit out the front waiting for assistance.
MPHS community trust chair Will Ward said they have been seeing many hundreds of people seeking support each day. The centre is primarily run by volunteers, but there is also a large presence from the Ministry of Social Development.
Last night the emergency centre had 12 people living on site whose houses were left uninhabitable from the floods a fortnight ago.
Agencies and community groups, alongside Auckland Emergency Management, are there to provide needs assessments and offer support, including accommodation if needed. These centres are located at:
- Moana-Nui-a-Kiwa Pool and Leisure Centre, 66R Mascot Ave, Mangere (24 hours)
- New Lynn Community Centre, 45 Totara Avenue, New Lynn (9am – 5pm)
- Birkenhead Leisure Centre, 46 Mahara Avenue, Birkenhead (9am-5pm)
- Manu Tukutuku, 32 Riverton Drive, Randwick Park (9am-5pm, from 7 Feb)
Shelters and Civil Defence Centres around Auckland will be opened if they are needed for people seeking refuge from the Cyclone.
- Shelters: These provide a place to be safe while the worst of the weather passes. Blankets and hot drinks will be available but shelters aren’t equipped for extended stays.
- Civil Defence Centres (CDCs): Are equipped to provide you with a safe place to eat, sleep and access essential support services.
Auckland Emergency Management’s Rachel Kelleher called on people not to be complacent. “We still have sufficient time to prepare, and we ask that people use this time wisely and calmly,” she said.
Coming so soon after Auckland’s floods, emergency management teams have leapt into preparations and are finalising the locations of defence centres and evacuation shelters for people and pets, Kelleher said.
Kelleher asked people to check on neighbours, especially the elderly and vulnerable.
She said the impact of this weather system may be different to late January’s flooding and there may be an additional risk from storm surges.
Her team had set up a GetReady website offering tips for homeowners on how to prepare, including tying down loose property, cleaning out spouts and drains and considering moving vulnerable items above flood level and buying sandbags from hardware stores to minimise damage.
Kiwis were also urged to stay off the roads once the storm hits, to avoid going through floodwater and to call 111 only if a life is at risk to ensure the vital helpline is not overloaded with minor jobs.
A further concern in flood-hit Auckland and Coromandel is Gabrielle may cause new slips.
Auckland Council building consents manager Ian McCormick said people should stay out of buildings with red placards and at buildings with yellow placards people should follow the advice on the placard and out of an abundance of caution stay out during the event.
He encouraged people with concerns about their houses to move out until the end of the event.
Air New Zealand, meanwhile, has asked all domestic and international passengers to reconsider travel.
International travellers are advised they will be able to defer travel to a later date without penalties if they choose not to fly due to the threatening weather.
Domestic travellers are being offered similar flexibility for travel to/from and via Auckland, Hamilton, Tauranga, Kerikeri, Whangārei, Rotorua, Taupō, Gisborne, Napier or New Plymouth, up to and including Friday, February 17.
Auckland Transport executive general manager Stacey van der Putten said 15 roads were currently closed across the region.
The team are also publishing an “extensive list of roads” they know are vulnerable to flooding and strong winds, she said.
Auckland Secondary Schools Principals’ Association president and Orewa College principal Greg Pierce said some schools may close on Monday and Tuesday.
His school, for instance, sat at sea level and was prone to flooding so his team would make a call on Sunday evening about whether students would stay home and study online, he said.
Lines company Vector in Auckland and power suppliers across the North Island have asked people who use medical equipment that relies on electricity to let them know immediately if they suffer a power outage.
“We would like to reassure Aucklanders that we are ready and have made preparations including moving replacement equipment, such as poles, closer to where they may be needed, cancelling some planned outages next week, and placing our crews on standby,” a Vector spokesperson said.
Countdown has also said it began stocking its North Island stores earlier this week to ensure there were enough essential supplies.
There were also reports yesterday of hardware stores staying busy with shoppers buying torches, lanterns, camping stoves and matches.
Emergency Management Minister Kieran McAnulty said he had been given an assurance that Civil Defence and Emergency Management (CDEM) teams and other organisations across the country will keep Kiwis informed with regular storm updates.
Waka Kotahi, meanwhile, will be providing road and transport updates, while local CDEMs will give local updates in each of their districts.
To keep track of national alerts, people should check the NZ Civil Defence pages.