- Ex-cyclone Hale is hammering the North Island, dumping a month’s worth of rain in 24 hours in Northland and north Auckland
- There is widespread flooding in Coromandel and Gisborne, including concerns some rivers could burst their banks
- The Gisborne District Council is warning residents in low-lying areas near the Hikuwai River to “prepare to evacuate”
- Around 15 households near Hikuwai River at Tolaga Bay have already self-evacuated as the river threatens to reach 12.5m
- The Thames-Coromandel District Council says the storm will likely be a “one in 20-year event”
- Gisborne’s Civil Defence boss warns the storm is “potentially one of the worst ones they have seen”
- Whitianga houses along the coastline in the firing line as tides continue to rise
- Fresh weather warnings issued tonight for heavy rain and strong winds for eastern and lower parts of the North Island, and upper South Island.
- State of local emergency declared for Gisborne.
Tairāwhiti Civil Defence has declared a state of local emergency with a major Gisborne river threatening to breach its banks as the district continues to be pummelled by ex-Cyclone Hale.
A further 30-50mm of rain is expected to fall in the already flooded area, with the Hikuwai River reaching a height of 12.5m a short time ago. It is expected to reach 13m at midnight, with some families self-evacuating due to the risk of widespread flooding.
In the last hour, 38mm of rain has fallen in Hikuwai.
The state of local emergency comes into force immediately and expires in seven days unless lifted earlier.
MetService has also issued fresh warnings tonight for heavy rain and strong winds, as ex-cyclone Hale continues to track across the country, stretching as far down as Marlborough and across to Mount Taranaki.
Hikuwai River at Willowflat is currently at 12.44m and rising, estimated to peak just over 13m near midnight tonight. This sparked the evacuation of residents in the vicinity.
Fifteen households around Mangatuna had already self-evacuated as the river threatened to breach its banks following a sustained deluge from ex-cyclone Hale which has slammed into parts of the North Island today.
Nearly 400 residents in Matawai are without power overnight as it’s too dangerous for crews to check onsite.
Civil Defence personnel also said the city’s sewer network is overwhelmed, with emergency valves open in several locations into the city’s rivers to avoid overflows on private property.
Tairāwhiti Civil Defence manager Ben Green said that as of 7.30pm, the Hikuwai River level was sitting at 10m after being at a consistent 9m for much of the day.
By 9.30pm that had risen to 12m, according to Uawa Civil Defence.
Earlier this afternoon, Green said the civil defence team was anxious about levels potentially reaching 13m.
He also said they had been in contact with those in the evacuation zones, and most of those in the firing line have opted to self-evacuate. He couldn’t say how many had evacuated due to the sparseness of the community affected.
Civil Defence controller Greg Shelton said the rising river posed a major risk of thousands of hectares of farmland and property being damaged. He said the weather system was “potentially one of the worst ones they have seen”.
In the last 24 hours 252mm of rain had been recorded at Waikura Valley.
A major highway on the Coromandel Peninsula is closed after slips blocked the road late this afternoon.
State Highway 25A that links Kopu with Hikuai is now impassable. Waka Kotahi said contractors were on scene and motorists were asked to follow directions of emergency services.
MetService is also monitoring whether New Zealand will be hit by another cyclone next week.
Weather forecasting models are predicting a storm to form in the tropics over the weekend and possibly move towards the North Island further east, or miss landfall altogether.
MetService forecaster Alwyn Bakker said it was still too far out to make any meaningful forecast as to where the cyclone may hit.
STORY CONTINUES AFTER LIVE BLOG
MetService has issued a fresh warning from 8pm tonight for the Coromandel Peninsula, telling residents to expect a further 20 to 35mm of rain, in addition to what has already fallen. Peak rates of 5 to 15mm/h are possible this evening.
It’s a similar story for the already battered Gisborne, with MetService forecasting a further 30 to 50mm of rain, with peak rates of 15 to 20mm/h. Thunderstorms with heavy falls are possible on Wednesday morning.
Hawke’s Bay should expect a further 60 to 80mm of rain from 8pm with peak rates of 10 to 15mm/h.
The Eastern hills and ranges of Wairarapa are forecast to receive a whopping 100 to 120mm of rain from 9pm tonight, with the majority falling on Wednesday morning.
Tararua Range, however, is expected to get the worst of the rain tomorrow, with 120 to 140mm, mainly during Wednesday morning.
MetService has also issued heavy rain watches for Mount Taranaki, Marlborough and Canterbury coast from Cape Campbell to Kaikoura and the Seaward Kaikoura Range, and the Central North Island hills and mountains.
Earlier, residents in Gisborne were told to prepare to evacuate, with 250mm of rain expected to pummel the district during the one-in 20-year event.
Coastline campers staying around Kaiaua on the Firth of Thames are also being urged to evacuate ahead of a 3.2m tide by 10.50pm tonight.
The Kaiaua Fire Brigade said while the region wasn’t expected to get the same severe level of winds and rain as the Coromandel, locals and holidaymakers still needed to be prepared as the storm might still “pack a punch to our area”.
In Gisborne, conditions were being described as worse than Cyclone Bola.
More than 100mm of rain fell overnight in the ranges with Gisborne getting around 40mm. Tonight, MetService is warning that between 200 and 250mm of rain is expected through to 2am, along with 4-6m swells.
Tairāwhiti Civil Defence and Emergency manager Ben Green says people should delay travel and keep off the roads if they can.
With more rain expected on already-sodden ground, there could be slips and slumps around the region, he said.
The emergency valve at the Gladstone Rd Bridge was opened to release pressure at 8am, the council’s Four Waters operation manager Chris Hopman said.
“The Wainui Road pump station is at the highest level we’ve ever seen,” he said.
“We need to open the valves into waterways to avoid wastewater overflows into people’s homes and through manholes on the street, which can cause health risks.”
Further north, Auckland’s northern region and Northland have been hit by nearly a month’s worth of rain in the past 24 hours as the ex-cyclone strikes, MetService says.
Multiple roads are closed and partially closed throughout the area, including the busy State Highway 1 over the Brynderwyns, which was closed due to surface flooding and slips. It has since reopened according to Waka Kotahi.
Police also warned of significant delays on SH1 near Dome Valley, Warkworth, earlier today, where a tree had fallen across the northbound lane.
In Whitianga, nearly 400 homes were without power and lawns and reserves close to the sea were disappearing under growing pools of floodwater.
Major erosion is occurring along Whitianga’s coast, with the famed Mercury Bay Boating Club that launched New Zealand’s first bid for the America’s Cup under threat due to massive rising tides.
Weather forecaster Niwa said that high tide is just after 10pm tonight, just as the centre of the cyclone approaches Coromandel, and conditions will continue to worsen along the east coast.
So far, Whitianga’s maximum wind gust has been 67km/h, but stronger winds are lurking offshore, Niwa reported.
Towler warned the weather conditions would be intense for the region today and tomorrow.
“Three roads have closed due to slips this morning.”
The former tropical cyclone, which brought misery to the Coromandel Peninsula just days after an earlier storm saw roads awash and holidays ruined, is set to become a one-in-20-year event.
Thames Coromandel District Council said its emergency management team had been advised that 400mm of rain was now forecast to fall for the event through to 10pm, meaning ex-Cyclone Hale would likely be a damaging storm event.
”While the cyclone is set to begin easing off tonight and through tomorrow, our catchments are struggling to cope so expect widespread surface flooding, slips, storm surge, and road closures to continue,” the council said this afternoon.
There are reports of power outages in Kōpū, Ōpoutere, Whenuakite, Hot Water Beach, Whitianga and Waiau.
More than 500 households are affected. Powerco was working to restore connections.
”We have another six to eight hours of this cyclone at its current intensity, so the message to everyone is stay off the roads and beaches for your own safety - it’s dangerous,” Civil Defence controller Garry Towler said.
Auckland’s north gets month’s rain in 24 hours
Auckland’s north and Northland have been hit by nearly a month’s worth of rain in the past 24 hours as ex-cyclone Hale struck, MetService said.
The North Island is being hammered by the rapidly-moving storm and forecasters are eyeing its move towards Auckland, where residents are being warned of a dumping of rain and wild winds.
Police are warning of significant delays on SH1 near Dome Valley, Warkworth, where a tree has fallen across the northbound lane.
Roads in Coromandel are flooding and slips are making driving tricky in some areas.
Anaura Bay Motor Camp manager Donna Williamson told the Herald that the Hikuwai river was at its peak today.
”There is expected to be a 6m swell, we are just waiting for a high tide. At the moment there are just puddles,” Williamson said.
“All campers have left the site. It’s just us here, we are also advised by the Civil Defence to move to higher ground. It has not fully hit us yet, it is expected to get worse from the afternoon.”
Heavy rain warnings have been issued for Auckland and Northland, south of the Bay of Islands, with MetService predicting 90 to 120mm of rain and peak rates of 10 to 20mm/h.
MetService forecaster Allister Gorman told Newstalk ZB the weather event would bring a lot of rain with it but not so much wind.
“It is moving towards the Hauraki Gulf area later today and we do expect it to take a turn to the east again. It is quite tricky to say just how close it will come to Coromandel and Auckland,” he said.
Gorman said Hale seemed to be travelling quickly.
The ex-cyclone is already dumping heavy rain in the Coromandel and causing surface flooding in Whangārei, which copped a month’s worth of rain in a single day.
Drains are overflowing and winds are picking up as the city was hit by the worst of the blustery former cyclone’s wrath.
Holidaymakers were seen leaving Coromandel ahead of the arrival of the fierce storm, amid MetService alerts of possible flooding, slips and hazardous driving conditions for Auckland and parts of Northland.
The tropical storm, New Zealand’s first of 2023, hit the North Island last night - earlier than previously forecast - and people were warned to brace for gale-force winds and extensive heavy rain that could last until Thursday morning.
Heavy rain warnings for Auckland and Northland were in place for 19 hours, with streams and rivers expected to rise rapidly and surface flooding and slips possible. Driving conditions may be hazardous, MetService said.
Meanwhile, conditions off the Coromandel’s east coast were rapidly deteriorating ahead of Hale making landfall.
The wind had risen last night and whitecaps were visible on the increasingly choppy sea, hundreds of metres out from the Whitianga shoreline. The entire area was cloaked in a misty gloom.
Late on Monday afternoon a stream of traffic, many towing boats and laden with camping gear, was seen heading away from the Coromandel.
It came as MetService warned that eastward-facing parts of the North Island, like Coromandel and Gisborne, that were drenched last week, “are again in the firing line” despite Hale being downgraded to a former tropical cyclone.
Heavy rain warnings have been issued for those regions as well as many others, including Hawke’s Bay.
People are urged to keep up to date with the latest forecasts and warnings and to stay alert to bulletins from local authorities.
Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency asked people to avoid unnecessary travel from Monday night until Wednesday morning.
Acting national manager maintenance and operations Jaclyn Hankin said heavy rain could cause surface flooding, trigger slips and cause streams and rivers to rise rapidly, which would require the agency to close some state highways.
“Stay alert for unreported hazards, such as surface flooding, slips, fallen trees and branches, and downed powerlines,” Hankin said.
“If you must travel, slow down and maintain a greater following distance between your vehicle and the one in front.”
East Coast settlements are being warned they may be cut off for days, with Civil Defence urging North Island residents to keep an eye on the storm, with fears of widespread flooding and beaches hammered by dangerous 6m swells.
Everyone in Coromandel is being warned to take shelter and be prepared to “ride out” Hale for 24 hours, with the North Island to take a direct hit.
Easterly swells of up to 6m are forecast to pound east-facing coasts from Northland to Wairarapa on Tuesday and Wednesday. MetService warns it could lead to coastal flooding and erosion around high tide.
New Zealand Civil Defence told people to make an emergency plan and prepare homes ahead of the tropical blast.
“If you are in Tairāwhiti, Hawke’s Bay or the Coromandel Peninsula, stay up to date by checking MetService warnings and following your local Civil Defence Emergency Management group on social media.”
With destructive gales and flood-threatening levels of rain forecast to hit much of the upper North Island, the national defence organisation advised people to secure items around properties and bring pets indoors, ensure livestock were gathered in a safe place. It also advised people to secure boats or boat trailers.
Tairāwhiti Civil Defence warned locals across the region to be prepared and have a plan in case they needed to evacuate.
“If you know you could possibly get cut off, make plans to move now or be prepared with enough supplies for three days, including medication.
“If you’re camping in an exposed coastal area you should consider moving now.”
It said all unsealed roads across the region would be closed to heavy freight trucks from 8pm on Monday night.
On Monday morning the Thames-Coromandel District Council said those staying on the eastern seaboard needed to keep up to date with developments and be somewhere safe by nightfall, “ready to ride this out for at least 24 hours”.
The centre of the low is expected to move into Northland, Auckland, Coromandel Peninsula and Bay of Plenty tonight.
The areas most in the storm’s path included eastern parts of Northland, North Auckland, eastern Waikato, Coromandel, Bay of Plenty, East Cape and Gisborne, Hawke’s Bay, Wairarapa and the Cook Strait.
MetService’s latest models predict Cyclone Hale will hit the Coromandel Peninsula before travelling to the Waikato, through Taupō and hooking back towards Hawke’s Bay.
“We are not sugar-coating this one, it will hit hard and likely cause coastal damage as well as the usual slips, surface flooding and power outages”.
The ex-tropical system was forecast to dump more than 230mm of rain in 24 hours, with easterly gales and gusts exceeding 110km/h.
Coromandel Civil Defence controller Garry Towler said impacts would be felt from Monday night, peaking on Tuesday and passing through by Wednesday afternoon.
Coastal scientists forecast storm surges of up to 30cm or more above the three high tides over this time.
“The main areas of concern are erosion and inundation at Brophy’s and Buffalo beaches in Whitianga, erosion and structure damage across beaches all the way down to Whangamatā,” said Towler.
Ahead of the forecast cyclone, forestry operators in Northland, Gisborne and Hawke’s Bay were asked to stop work in severe weather.
“Strong winds and heavy rain can make forestry operations dangerous,” said Safetree chief executive Joe Akari.
”Please take heed of any MetService or Civil Defence warnings issued.”
AA Insurance head of home claims Tom Bartlett said people should check their properties before the cyclone hits.
“With heavy rain on the way for parts of the country which have seen a lot of rainfall already this year, we’re encouraging people to get out and check their properties while it is safe to do so, especially areas of your house that are prone to flooding,” Bartlett said.
Rural property owners should check that their property is secure and livestock moved to sheltered areas, he said.
Any items that could get caught up in the wind such as trampolines should be tied down, and if possible move outdoor furniture and barbecues inside or under cover.
Tower CEO Blair Turnbull says people with household emergency plans should be prepared to put them into action.
“Be prepared to evacuate quickly if it becomes necessary ... make sure you do so safely and your property is secure by locking all doors and windows,” he said.
“We’re aware of the ways climate change is affecting our communities. Our data clearly shows the frequency of large events and the severity of the damage they cause, increasing over time.”