Beachfront properties in the Coromandel towns of Whitianga and Cooks Beach are being swamped by surging seas as high tide and Cyclone Gabrielle hits.
And Civil Defence authorities say the district’s roading network is “totally compromised”.
Video shows large waves crashing against properties close to the shore, inundating some homes in a couple of feet of water.
Vital roads in the area, including Buffalo Beach Rd (SH25), are also underwater or have been blocked by fallen trees and downed powerlines.
River levels are expected to peak at about 7pm, authorities have warned.
Raging seas pound across the Whitianga foreshore. Photo / Mike Scott
People whose properties are flooded have been asked to evacuate. An evacuation centre is operating at the Whitianga Town Hall.
Thames Coromandel District Council Civil Defence controller Garry Towler told Newstalk ZB the cyclone is “starting to really impact us now” with severe conditions on the eastern seaboard.
“Storm surge is a big concern of ours.”
Towler said the peninsula was suffering multiple power issues and outages, while he expected further damage to homes in the next 18 to 20 hours as storm moved closer to the region.
“It’s going to be a miserable, uncomfortable night for the Coromandel,” he said. “We’re on one knee now, this could be a big blow.”
Towler said the “whole roading network is totally compromised”.
“Hopefully, everyone has found somewhere safe to ride this one out.”
Before high tide, Whitianga resident Poppy Richmond told the Herald those living near the coast are “getting quite worried” as the ocean begins to encroach on the town.
She also described debris on the roads and beachfront with “logs everywhere”.
Whitianga volunteer firefighters help clear a downed tree on the road to Tairua as Cyclone Gabrielle smashes into the Coromandel. Photo / Mike Scott
Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency has warned road users to expect more closures as slips and flooding caused by the arrival of the cyclone jeopardise safe travel on State Highways in the Coromandel and East Waikato.
“Road users are advised to plan ahead and, if travel is essential, to leave sooner rather than later to get through the Karangahake Gorge. It is very likely that flooding will force the closure of State Highway 2 through the Karangahake Gorge later today,” the agency said.
“In addition, the stop-gates on State Highway 26 on the Paeroa College side of the bridge may also need to be used, which will result in an additional road closure.”
Road closures as of 2.30pm
SH2 Paeroa to Waihi – via Karangakake Gorge – OPEN BUT EXPECT CLOSURE The gorge may need to be closed later today due to flooding.
SH25 Thames to Coromandel: OPEN - ESSENTIAL TRAVEL ONLY Multiple fallen trees and debris obstructing and blocking lanes along the length of the Thames Coast.Note – Flooding is expected later this afternoon at the Kauaeranga River spillway just near the airfield in Thames which may close SH25 here.
SH25 Coromandel to Kūaotunu: CLOSED IN AREAS A slip is blocking both lanes on the Coromandel/ Whangapoua Hill and there are multiple trees down. Due to slips, surface flooding, fallen vegetation and debris - extreme caution is advised.
SH25 Kūaotunu to Whitianga: CLOSED Closed at Wharekaho South and Brophy’s Beach, Whitianga due to flooding. Extreme caution advised.
SH25 Whitianga to Hikuai – OPEN but essential travel only. Extreme caution is advised.
SH25 Hikuai to Waihi – OPEN Due to small slips, debris on the road and surface flooding – extreme caution is advised. A tree is blocking one lane between Whangamata to Hikuai but the road is passable.
SH26 Morrinsville to Te Aroha – CLOSED A fallen tree is blocking SH26 immediately south of Te Aroha, near Grattan Road
SH25A – FULLY CLOSED OVER FULL LENGTH Powerlines down on Kopu side of summit slip closure.
SH26 Te Aroha to Paeroa and SH26 between Paeroa to Kopu - OPEN This is an evolving situation and can change at any time.
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