Auckland Mayor Wayne Brown has extended the region’s state of emergency for a further seven days.
MetService has issued heavy rain and strong wind watches for the upper North Island from Sunday morning until midnight Tuesday as tropical Cyclone Gabrielle is projected to strike the country.
The national forecaster said these weather watches are likely to be upgraded to orange and possibly red warnings in the coming days, where rainfall amounts and wind speeds could cause widespread damage.
MetService’s head of weather communication, Lisa Murray, said: “If the cyclone continues on its current path towards the north of Aotearoa New Zealand, we can expect this to be an extreme weather event with widespread damage.
“Those areas that are already vulnerable following last week’s weather are expected to see more rain, strong wind, heavy swells and coastal inundation which will exacerbate the situation.”
Murray urged people to not forget a cyclone brings severe damaging wind as well as heavy rain and swell.
“As the ground is already sodden trees are more likely to topple which could cause power outages.”
The path a cyclone takes is exceptionally hard to forecast, Murray explained, but there is agreement amongst the weather models that Cyclone Gabrielle will arrive in the north on Sunday.
Even if the cyclone passes just offshore, there is still a high risk of significant and impactful weather over the upper North Island starting later Sunday, then spreading south to central New Zealand by Tuesday, Murray said.
Authorities are also warning incoming Tropical Cyclone Gabrielle could be worse than the last storm which battered Auckland, with severe winds likely to down trees and cut power.
Mayor Brown said he was satisfied an emergency still exists in the Auckland region and is still dealing with an ongoing event, including more flooding on Tuesday, significant land movements yesterday and the risk of more land movement with further weather events forecast in coming days.
Brown was advised that police continue to believe emergency powers remain helpful in supporting Auckland Council to exercise its powers under the Building Act 2004, and that emergency powers for the relief of distress, including emergency food, clothing, and shelter, continue to be needed by Te Whatu Ora: Health New Zealand and welfare response partners.
“My decision reflects the seriousness of the current and potential situation and our response,” Brown said.
“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.”
Brown said the “two most important messages” are if the cyclone nears the North Island the focus will be saving lives, preventing serious injury, keeping safe, and also protecting property.
And, he added, in the next two or three days, “we all can best prepare by cleaning up”.
Brown said the Big Auckland Clean Up programme, led by Deputy Mayor Desley Simpson, has “became that much more urgent”.
“Please keep informed through MetService, through Auckland Emergency Management, through the formal media briefings we are running, and through the media itself,” Brown said. “If life is at risk, call 111 immediately. For other assistance, call 0800 22 22 00.”
The Royal New Zealand Air Force, meanwhile, is helping to clean up Auckland’s streets after historic floods swamped many parts of the city, as authorities warn people to use the fine weather now to prepare.
MetService says the Auckland region can expect wind from Cyclone Gabrielle from Sunday night but the worst weather will come on Monday and Tuesday.
A heavy rain watch is in place 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, is in force for Northland, all of Auckland and the Coromandel.
Latest forecasts continue to update as new tracking data comes through, and MetService said people should keep up to date with the latest information.
This morning the Thames Coromandel district extended its state of emergency for another seven days and Auckland mayor Wayne Brown urged Aucklanders to “be prepared for the worst” as the cyclone could hit the flood-ravaged region in three days.
Authorities are expecting strong winds, heavy rain and wild seas. Brown said power outages were more likely this time and he advised people to get torches and batteries on hand.
Auckland Civil Defence is also warning residents to use the next few days to get ready for what could be another significant event.
Aucklanders are advised to have enough supplies to sustain themselves for three days. People reliant on medication are advised to have enough to get through the next week.
Officials are preparing to open a number of additional Civil Defence centres across the region in case people needed to evacuate. They are making contingency plans to access or move the centres if access is blocked.
Brown said Auckland was facing a challenge on the heels of an unprecedented event.
He said public resources across the region were stretched and he was asking Aucklanders to “please get prepared”.
Aucklanders were magnificent in the face of the flooding of two weeks ago, Brown said.
But he is promising to keep everyone much better informed this time.
“We’re all working together on this one and this time we’ll do a better job of keeping you informed all the way along.”
Asked for any reassurances for Aucklanders hard-hit by the last round of flooding, Brown said: “We’re doing our absolute best to prepare for this, but you can’t wish it away, you have to face it”.
“It’s not looking good,” Brown said.
“This time we do have the advantage of knowing it’s coming.”
Brown said this time officials had the opportunity to double-check everything beforehand so communication could be better.
There was no warning last time so that made things difficult for all those involved, he said.
Power outages should be expected as the ground is already waterlogged and trees and poles that weren’t subjected to heavy wind last time, will be this time.
“We’re preparing for the worst and hoping for the best,” Brown said.
“I wish I could reassure people about the weather but I don’t control that.
“Every lesson that could be learned has been learned,” Brown said.
Auckland Emergency Management’s Rachel Kelleher said Cyclone Gabrielle could have a potentially significant impact around the top of the North Island.
However at this point, there is still some uncertainty about where it will head. From early Sunday they should have a clearer picture of what impact the storm will have.
“We need to be doing what we can in these intervening days to prepare,” she said.
“We won’t have an absolute degree of confidence about how severe it will be until Sunday.
“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.”
If Cyclone Gabrielle does come across Auckland it will bring very heavy winds, which could down power lines and cause localised heavy downpours, flooding and coastal erosion from sea surges.
People should think about how to secure things that could move around such as trampolines, outdoor umbrellas, or things that could lift up, fly away and cause damage to people or properties, Kelleher said.
Deputy Mayor Desley Simpson said the big Auckland clean-up has just become much more urgent.
“It’s very clear that we have to get this kerb-side rubbish away before the next storm.”
She asked those who had a trailer and were able to help with the clean-up to call the 0800 number and offer their assistance.
Asked about people impersonating council workers and then looting houses of those hit in the last round of flooding, Kelleher said people should always ask for credentials of anyone saying they’re from the council or a building inspector.
“I can’t believe that people could carry out that sort of action on people who are already suffering.”
However, she added, people should not be staying in a red-stickered property for their own safety.
Sixteen out of 18 weather models this morning show Cyclone Gabrielle making a direct hit on New Zealand with damaging winds and torrential rainfall likely across much of the North Island.
Niwa, MetService and Weather Watch have today announced the storm is likely to make landfall in the north of the country on Monday or Tuesday bringing winds of up to 150km/h and up to 300mm of rain.
Auckland and the Coromandel remain in a state of emergency after the deadly Auckland Anniversary weekend storm that killed four people, and caused widespread flooding and dozens of landslides.
“The direct path of Cyclone Gabrielle is uncertain at this stage, and while we are hoping for the best, we must all be prepared for the worst,” Brown said.
“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.”
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.”
Thames-Coromandel mayor Len Salt said he signed the declaration to extend the state of emergency this morning after being briefed on the impact the impending cyclone could have on the district early next week.
The cyclone is due to arrive on Monday, pass through by Thursday, and deliver heavy rain, storm surges and severe gale-force winds.
”Further briefings with MetService, Waikato Regional Council and Civil Defence are in progress, and we will provide an update later this afternoon,” said Civil Defence controller Garry Towler.
”In the meantime, it’s a good idea to use the break in the weather to prepare for the event, stock up on essentials and meds, including gas and batteries.”
Kelleher said work was under way across the region to clear up debris from the recent storm before the next one.
“The council’s waste solutions team is working with the NZDF to clear items and belongings from kerbsides across the region as quickly as possible to ensure they don’t cause further issues in the event of further flooding,” Kelleher said.
“The council’s healthy waters teams are working to clear stormwater drains and culverts prior to the predicted arrival of the storm.
“This includes clearing hot spots and blockages around catchpits and inlet grilles and removing debris from accessible streams and waterways.
“We’re asking Aucklanders to pitch in to help get their communities storm-ready by ensuring kerbs and any inlet grills on and around properties are clear before Sunday evening.”
She appealed for residents to take any flood-damaged items to a council drop-off facility before Sunday and not to put any additional items out on the kerb for collection.
Philip Duncan, of WeatherWatch, says the impending cyclone is one of the “most serious storms of the century”.
“While no official warnings are yet locked in this far in advance, the data this morning means the likelihood of severe weather across much of the North Island looks highly likely,” Duncan said.
“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.”
Niwa is warning most models show the cyclone making landfall in the North Island on Monday or Tuesday.
“Should this occur, very heavy rain, damaging winds and dangerous seas would be expected.”
MetService agrees it is looking more likely Gabrielle will bring severe weather to New Zealand shores, with most models showing it will hit the country.
“Damaging winds, flooding rain and coastal inundation are things to watch out for from Sunday onward.”
Today’s forecasting has prompted Northland Civil Defence to prepare for the storm.
“MetService New Zealand are starting to get a better picture of Cyclone Gabrielle and It’s looking more and more likely that it will bring severe weather to our shores,” Northland Civil Defence said on Facebook.
“MetService currently has moderate confidence of severe gales for Northland on Sunday, with high confidence of warning amounts of rain and gales for Northland from Monday to Tuesday.
“Very large waves and a storm surge are also expected to affect northern and eastern coastlines from Northland to Gisborne from Sunday into Monday.”
They urged people to keep up to date with the latest weather information and prepare for severe weather,
Cyclone Gabrielle was recently confirmed to become a category three weather event.
At least a month’s worth of rain is expected to fall.
The forecaster predicts a high chance of warning amounts of rain for Northland, Auckland, Coromandel Peninsula, northern and eastern Waikato, Bay of Plenty and northern Gisborne from Monday to Tuesday.
Thames Coromandel District Council civil defence controller Garry Towler is considering the options of the current State of Emergency given the possible intensity of the cyclone.
”We will have a much clearer picture by Friday on where the cyclone is tracking and what we are likely to face on the Coromandel next week, so having the wide range of powers and access to resources if we need them will be the key as to whether we stay in a declared or transition state,” he said.
Whāngarei mayor Vince Cocurullo told RNZ it was early days and there would be a clearer idea of what the effect on the region would be by Friday.
He told Northlanders to be prepared, especially those in flood-prone areas.
“For Northland especially, it does come down to when the high tides also come. The high tides are peaking at about one o’clock on Sunday and Monday. As long as you’re preparing yourself for a tidal surge at the same time, that’s when problems really happen in the flood-prone areas.”
He said people needed to make sure their drains were clean before the storm came and keep checking in with MetService and Civil Defence and be aware of the latest forecast.
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 coordinate with the emergency management agencies leading the response.
He said any decisions would be based on information from those agencies.