- Cyclone Gabrielle, now a “severe category three storm”, is forecast to be one of the most serious storms to hit NZ this century, bringing up to 300mm of rain and 150km/h winds that could cause widespread damage to North Island regions. Severe gusts could damage buildings, down trees and cause power cuts
- Large waves and a storm surge are expected to affect northern and eastern coastlines from Sunday. Massive waves between five and seven metres or more have been predicted, and people are being warned to stock at least three days’ worth of supplies, including medication, water and food
- Auckland and Coromandel have extended their states of emergency. MetService has heavy rain warnings in place from Northland to Gisborne in the coming days
The latest MetService update predicts monster waves between 5 and 7 metres or more and severe gales.
Damage caused by the gusts may be widespread, from Northland to Wellington, and could blow debris, down trees, damage buildings and cause power cuts.
The agency warns of storm surges from 0.4 to 0.5 metres and dangerous coastal inundation, particularly from Northland to Bay of Plenty and the East Coast of the North Island.
There is a heavy rain watch in place for 59 hours from 1am Sunday to noon Tuesday for Northland and Auckland including Great Barrier Island.
“Rainfall amounts may reach 200 to 300mm or more during this time.”
A heavy rain watch has also been issued for 53 hours for the Coromandel Peninsula from Sunday at 10am, a 43 hour warning for Gisborne from 3pm Sunday and a 48 hour warning from 6am Monday for Hawke’s Bay.
A strong wind watch is in place for 60 hours from noon Sunday for Northland and Auckland north of Whangaparāoa and from 6pm that day for 54 hours a warning is in place for Auckland from Whangaparāoa southwards, and Coromandel Peninsula.
“A significant period of severe gales and damaging winds is possible from Sunday through to Tuesday,” the update said.
The cyclone tipped to be one of the worst storms this century has now intensified into a “severe category three” storm and tracking shows a slight shift east - but it makes “little” difference to the severe weather risk for New Zealand at this stage.
WeatherWatch has issued new information about Cyclone Gabrielle early this morning, just before 7am, saying some of the most trusted global models they use show a “very slight shift” eastwards.
“But [it] doesn’t change severe weather risks for NZ a great deal.”
NIWA said this updated tracking “would expose Northland, Coromandel, Bay of Plenty, Gisborne and Hawke’s Bay to the worst weather”.
People in the upper North Island are being warned to prepare for up to 300mm of rain and 150km/h winds as Cyclone Gabrielle looms, with authorities now extending the states of emergency in Auckland and Coromandel.
Slated to be one of the “most serious storms of the century” by forecasting agency WeatherWatch, Gabrielle has been upgraded to a category two tropical cyclone and was likely to increase to category three today, the National Institute for Water and Atmospheric Research said.
MetService has issued a heavy rain watch for 71 hours - almost three days - for Northland and Auckland north of Whangaparāoa.
The watch is in place from 1am on Sunday until midnight next Tuesday, when periods of heavy rain are expected.
“Rainfall amounts may approach warning criteria during Sunday. However, a more significant period is expected to be from Monday morning through to Tuesday morning, where we may see rainfall amounts of 150mm to 200mm in 24 hours.”
MetService said people should note that this watch will likely be upgraded to an orange or possibly the rare red warning in the coming days.
At least a month’s worth of rain is expected to fall when the storm makes landfall next week and could reach 300mm in some parts.
Latest models show bad weather will start hitting on Sunday - but the worst of the cyclone is expected on Monday and Tuesday. The cyclone itself is forecast to reach New Zealand landfall on Tuesday, with the latest tracking showing it will hit eastern parts of Northland, and then move towards Auckland and later Hawke’s Bay.
‘We have three days to prepare’
Auckland Deputy Mayor Desley Simpson told the AM Show everyone was “very concerned” about the cyclone.
“The good news is we have three days to prepare.”
However, “if you have gutters outside your house, wear gloves, go out and clear the drains, because if drains are free it helps”.
The debris from the last flood was still to be cleared, the council aimed to get it sorted by Sunday, she said.
“We had contractors come in. We have the army coming in to help, we are all out trying to get ready for Sunday.”
Simpson encouraged people to keep an eye out for updates on Auckland Emergency Management’s social media pages.
“They will give key messages repeated on all media outlets.
”People should by now know where their local Civil Defence centre and community hub is,” she said.
“Have a plan. Some people may want to go there earlier, if you know where to go tell your friends and family when the storm comes get out a bit early.”
Auckland Emergency Management are also urging people in affected areas to make an emergency plan.
“Having a plan helps make actual emergency situations less stressful.”
Acting director for the National Emergency Management Agency, Roger Ball, said research showed people are most motivated to get prepared when faced with an emergency themselves.
“We need to face facts - disasters like the Auckland floods are becoming more frequent and more severe as a result of climate change.
“But the good news is that being prepared is easier than you think – and can get started with a conversation,” he said.
“Having a prep talk only takes a few minutes and it costs nothing.”
Anyone wanting more information about how they or their families can prepare ahead of a severe weather event or emergency can go to: Getready.govt.nz for more information and tips.
MetService is also forecasting severe gales for Northland to Hawke’s Bay with a high degree of certainty.
Strong winds of up to 150km/h, unseen in Auckland’s Anniversary Weekend storm, risk downing trees and causing widespread power cuts across the city. Mayor Wayne Brown has urged Aucklanders to “be prepared for the worst” as the cyclone was likely to pummel the already sodden and flood-ravaged region from Sunday night.
He told Aucklanders to stock up on torches and batteries, as well as enough supplies to sustain themselves for three days and medication to last a week.
Brown urged people to check on friends, whānau and neighbours ahead of the cyclone.
“Many communities are already in challenging situations and we are prioritising those communities in need and at greatest risk of further flooding and potential harm.”
Brown said the “focus will be on saving lives, preventing serious injury, keeping safe, and also protecting property” as another weather emergency bears down on the city.
“My decision [to extend the state of emergency] reflects the seriousness of the current and potential situation and our response.
“After what Aucklanders have experienced since Friday, 27 January, and with our region waterlogged, it will be a very serious situation if the current weather forecasts eventuate.”
In a media conference with the Auckland Emergency Management, Brown said public resources across the region were already stretched.
“We’re preparing for the worst and hoping for the best. It’s not looking good.”
He promised to keep everyone “much better” informed this time after he faced criticism for his public response early in the Auckland Anniversary Weekend disaster, which claimed four lives.
“This time we do have the advantage of knowing it’s coming,” he said.
Brown added the cleanup of the city’s latest flooding had “become that much more urgent” ahead of Gabrielle’s potential damage.
“Residents and council workers should clear drains, berms and rubbish to prevent flooding and potential public health risks. Local iwi and community groups, including the Student Volunteer Army, are on hand to support residents, and the Defence Force has been activated to assist ahead of any severe weather.”
Worst-damaged Kāinga Ora houses, ‘unable to be lived in’
Four Kāinga Ora homes have been red stickered and 137 are now yellow stickered following the Auckland flooding.
The agency’s deputy chief executive for Auckland and Northland, Caroline Butterworth, said the 543 public houses damaged represented a small percentage of properties owned and managed by Kāinga Ora.
“The worst-damaged homes are unable to be lived in without significant repairs so we will find permanent new homes for those customers.”
Auckland Emergency Management’s (AEM) Rachel Kelleher said there was still some uncertainty about where Cyclone Gabrielle could hit, but forecasters and authorities should have a clearer picture from late today and Saturday.
“We need to be doing what we can in these intervening days to prepare,” she said.
“It has the wind element that the previous event didn’t have. With the type of wind that could come with an event like this, we expect trees to come down and further slips with heavy rainfall.”
Cyclone Gabrielle could also cause flooding and coastal erosion from sea surges.
People were encouraged to secure items - such as trampolines and outdoor umbrellas - which could fly away and pose a risk of hurting or damaging people and properties, Kelleher said.
Forecaster Philip Duncan, of WeatherWatch, said the impending cyclone could be one of the “most serious storms of the century”.
“If this current modelling comes true, this will likely be the most serious storm to impact New Zealand this century - especially with Auckland being in the mix for a potential direct hit.”
Officials were preparing to open additional Civil Defence centres across Auckland in case people needed to evacuate. They were making contingency plans to access or move the centres if access was blocked.
A heavy rain watch was issued for Northland, the Coromandel and Auckland north of Whangaparāoa with periods of heavy rain possible - up to 300mm in 24 hours in the Coromandel.
A strong wind watch, also likely to be upgraded to an orange or red warning, was issued for Northland, all of Auckland and the Coromandel.
MetService forecaster Angus Hines said it would be a “major storm” no matter how you cut it up.
”Starting this weekend and lasting into next week, we’re talking really heavy rain and a lot of that is coming back to those places that have had really heavy rain multiple times already this summer.”
Also coming with this storm is heavy winds, which he said will be a “step above” the wind those areas had last time around.
Yesterday, the Thames-Coromandel District Council also extended its state of emergency for another seven days.
Thames-Coromandel Mayor Len Salt said he signed the declaration to extend the state of emergency after being briefed on the impact the impending cyclone could have on the district.
Whāngarei mayor Vince Cocurullo also told Northlanders to be prepared, especially those in flood-prone areas.
Ministry of Education operations and integration leader Sean Teddy said their incident management team was keeping a close eye on the developing weather and would co-ordinate with the emergency management agencies leading the response.