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Tropical Cyclone Gabrielle: All you need to know

NZ Herald ,
Publish Date
Sat, 11 Feb 2023, 4:55PM

Tropical Cyclone Gabrielle: All you need to know

NZ Herald ,
Publish Date
Sat, 11 Feb 2023, 4:55PM

A “serious and significant” category three storm is tracking toward New Zealand from the Coral Sea, bringing heavy rain, strong winds and monster waves to parts of the country that are still recovering from last week’s severe flooding.

Official warnings of heavy rain and severe gales cover the upper two-thirds of the North Island, with as much as 400mm forecasted in some areas.

This afternoon the first monster wave alert was issued with seven-metre waves expected to pound the south-east coast of the North Island on Tuesday night.

The latest MetService update now shows the Category 3 Cyclone Gabrielle, packed with 140km/h plus winds and a month’s worth of rain, will now impact from the top of the North Island to the top of the South for the first part of next week.

“We’re preparing for the worst and hoping for the best,” Auckand Mayor Wayne Brown in a press conference.

“It’s not looking good.”

The latest information on the cyclone - including interactive maps tracking its location and any relevant events or incidents as well as weather data and evacuation centre sites when available - will be published on this page.

Cyclone Gabrielle

Click the image to see Gabrielle's progress.

In a press conference on Friday, Auckland Emergency Management’s Rachel Kelleher work to set up civil defence centres and evacuation shelters for people and their pets was underway.

The locations will be available on the AEM website when they are confirmed.

She asked people to check on neighbours, especially the elderly and vulnerable.

She said trees could block roads and people should think ahead about how they would cook food without power.

“Now is the time not to be complacent,” she said.

MetService warned the damage caused by wind gusts could be widespread, stretching the length of the North Island, and could cause power outages, topple trees and impact buildings.

However, the severity of the weather and the areas affected was highly dependent on the path of the cyclone.

WeatherWatch, a weather news outlet, said the cyclone could be one of the “most serious storms of the century”.

Forecaster Philip 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.”

Officials are preparing to open additional Civil Defence centres across Auckland in case people needed to evacuate and making contingency plans to access or move the centres if access was blocked.

Auckland Emergency Management has encouraged the region’s residents to use the time between now and Sunday to get prepared, including being ready to evacuate if needed, ensuring they have enough supplies at home, securing items like trampolines, plant pots and wheelie bins; and clearing storm water drains around their home if it’s safe to do so.

Mayor Wayne Brown 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.”

What are tropical cyclones?

Earlier this week, science and environmental reporter Jamie Morton in a piece for the Herald described cyclones as “the ultimate storm system.”

They are sprawling, swirling areas of low pressure packing gale-force winds and stretching hundreds of kilometres across the tropics where they form.

They could be thought of like “giant atmospheric heat engines” that draw moisture from the warm ocean as fuel and generating enormous amounts of energy as clouds form.

Morton said rotating thunderstorms formed spiral rainbands around their centre where the strongest winds and heaviest rain were found – creating a wildly-destructive “eye wall” around the eye.

This formation sucks heat 15km or higher into the atmosphere, while drier, cooler air at the top of the atmosphere becomes the exhaust gas of the heat engine.

- Chris Knox and Julia Gabel, NZH

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