Cyclone Gabrielle’s warpath is diminishing Northland’s access to the rest of the country as fallen trees and major slips blocked key roads overnight.
The only available routes into the region via Paparoa-Oakleigh Rd and Waipū Cove Rd are both down to one lane.
State Highway 1 is closed from Brynderwyn to Waipū. According to locals, a major slip has taken out concrete barriers recently installed on the Brynderwyn Hills following last week’s slips. The debris is blocking the entire road.
The alternative route for light vehicles through Waipū and Mangawhai was closed earlier this morning due to a slip on Waipū Cove Rd. However, Northland police confirmed the road has reopened with only one lane operational.
Flooding and slips have closed SH12 and SH14, used by heavy vehicles to get around the Brynderwyn closure.
A Waka Kotahi spokesperson said crews are currently on site clearing a slip on SH12, which has also been affected by flooding near Maungatūroto and a fallen tree although this section is not currently closed. Much of SH14 between Whangārei and Dargaville is closed.
Other major arterial routes are also closed. They include SH11 between Kawakawa and Ōpua, Whakapara (flooding), and SH1 near Kaitaia, south of Kitchen Rd (fallen trees).
Roads that are open but drivers are advised to tread carefully include SH1 in Ōkaihau, SH10 in Waipapa, SH11 Te Haumi to Kawakawa, SH12 Kaikohe to Omapere (fallen trees), SH1 in Mata, SH10 north of Kaeo, SH14 in Tangiteroria, SH15 in Otaika and SH15 at Ruakākā River Bridge (flooding).
McCathie Rd in Ruakākā is completely underwater.
A heavy rain warning has been extended for western parts of Northland south of Kaitāia until 1pm today. A further 30 to 50mm of rain is expected to accumulate, with peak rates of 10 to 15mm per hour.
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A severe wind warning for the whole of Northland remains in place until 9pm tonight. Severe gale south-westerlies are expected, with gusts reaching 120 km/h in exposed places.
Parts of Northland received more than 150mm of rain in the last 24 hours. Brookvale, a weather station around halfway between Dargaville and Kaikohe, received 174mm in the 24 hours to 12pm. Another station near Paparoa received 155mm. A relatively low 83mm fell at Whangārei Airport, but wind gusts of 102 km/h were also recorded.
There were wind gusts of 133 km/h at Cape Reinga and 128 km/h at Tutukaka.
MetService meteorologist Mmathapelo Makgabutlane said Cape Reinga and Tutukaka were both consistently windy over the last 24 hours.
”We’ve still got more rain coming throughout the region later today. Tomorrow we could still see a little bit of shower activity,” she added.
Strong winds were expected to ease tonight, with a strong wind warning in place until 9pm.
Any wind tomorrow would be “noticeably lighter” than today, Makgabutlane said.
A water-logged Rathbone St in central Whangārei. Photo / Michael Cunningham
More Whangārei evacuations
Residents in Hakawai Lane, off Whareora Rd in Whangārei are currently being evacuated due to the risk of a landslide threatening homes.
Police are supporting them and they will likely seek shelter at nearby McKay Stadium.
The evacuation is on the tail of one further south in Dargaville and also comes less than a day after residents in low-lying areas in central Whangārei were asked to self-evacuate yesterday.
Whangārei District Council is again urging residents to be aware of flooding when high tides take place at 2.44pm today and at 3.23am on Wednesday.
Although council has said they have no plans today to evacuate low-lying areas near rivers in downtown Whangārei.
Power outages expected to last
The number of households and businesses without power in the region continues to rise. About 30,000 Northpower customers in Whangārei and Kaipara are currently without power and another 14,729 in the Far North district.
Northpower sustained damage to several main high-voltage feeders overnight and lines’ crews are working to fully understand the severity of the damage caused overnight and make sites safe. The company has seen the extent of damage double within a 12-hour period, lifting the level of rebuild required on its network.
Substations at Ruakākā, Ruawai and Poroti have been impacted due to main high-voltage feeder lines that supply these substations being badly damaged.
Northpower chief executive Andrew McLeod told MoreFM crews were currently focused on addressing issues that were breaking networks, such as fallen trees.
He said additional crews from further south outside of Northland had been brought into the region to help bolster Northpower’s capabilities.
McLeod said repairs would be “a progressive rebuild” that could take a week for some areas.
He specifically mentioned Ruawai and One Tree Point as areas with complex challenges. In Ruakākā, he said, lines went through beach areas that had turned to “mush”.
A Northpower spokeswoman said most areas outside of central Whangārei, Mangawhai and Dargaville were experiencing outages.
“Today, given the high gusts of wind are forecast to continue until around 10pm tonight, our priorities are to ensure everyone is safe by isolating damaged lines, particularly around the western areas where we are seeing new damage.
“Our crews are out in full force, and we have additional crews from other parts of New Zealand here helping.”
Fallen pine trees bring power lines down at Pouto in Kaipara. Photo / Northpower
Top Energy chief executive Russell Shaw said never before has the company dealt with such a fluid and dynamic range of outages on its network in such a short period of time.
“The number of outages we are dealing with fluctuates as the winds change – we went from 14,000 homes off last night to under 5,000 during the day yesterday then to rise again overnight to 14,000 this morning.
Yesterday we had a team walk three hours with their equipment to restore the power, only to have it go off again when a tree further down the line damaged the network. This is the situation we are dealing with right now.
MetService is again advising people to stay indoors as much as possible as strong gusts, coupled with downed trees and power lines, are making driving difficult.
More work for brigades
Fire and Emergency said of the 55 incidents logged between 3am and 4am, nine were in Northland, 12 in Auckland, 12 in Waikato, 3 in Bay of Plenty and 19 in Hawke’s Bay.
Another 10 callouts took place in Northland between 10 and 11am. The incidents included trees falling on houses and roads in the Far North, trees falling on houses and power lines in Whangārei and flooding and evacuations in Kaipara.
FENZ is reiterating requests that people only call 111 when life and safety are at risk to ensure people who urgently need help can get through to our communications centre.
Thousands are still without power as inclement weather is hampering maintenance crews from going out in the field.
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