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Wild weather: Roads closed with over 100mm of rain, 130km/h wind gusts

Author
Rachel Maher, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Mon, 30 Oct 2023, 7:24AM

Wild weather: Roads closed with over 100mm of rain, 130km/h wind gusts

Author
Rachel Maher, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Mon, 30 Oct 2023, 7:24AM

The remnants of ex-tropical cyclone Lola are continuing their passage down the North Island, causing commuter chaos, floods and slips while thousands of homes have no power this morning.

The wild weather began to lash the top of the country yesterday, bringing heavy rainfall and strong wind gusts which are expected to last in Northland, Auckland, the Coromandel and the Bay of Plenty over the next couple of days.

The weather system involves a large, deep, complex low-pressure system moving slowly down the country, bringing moisture and tropical air from the subtropics.

Auckland is tipped to see 130 km/h wind gusts in exposed places, with Waka Kotahi saying the Harbour Bridge will go under a temporary full closure if severe winds gust over 90km/h.

The Harbour Bridge had reduced speed limits and lane reductions until midnight last night.

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MetService forecaster Lewis Ferris said the Coromandel has seen the most rain this morning.

An elevated weather station near The Pinnacles recorded 14.5mm of rainfall in the hour to 8am, and had recorded 120mm over six hours.

Ferris said that the worst of weather is expected to hit Auckland, Northland, Coromandel and Gisborne today before starting to ease from tomorrow.

”People are just going to need to get through today, that’s when we’ll see the worst of it with the tail end into Tuesday and easing on Wednesday.”

More than 5000 homes are without power in the Far North, according to electricity provider Top Power, and another 1100 in Northland, according to Northpower’s outage map.

Many have been in the dark since last night with Northpower warning on Sunday that “due to dangerous conditions with lines and wind we are having to leave this area isolated until tomorrow”.

Customers are being warned to treat all power lines as live.

In Auckland, much of Waiheke Island has been without power since Sunday along with swathes of northern Auckland around Wellsford and east of Puhoi, according to Vector’s outage map.

Lane closures are in place on the Auckland Harbour Bridge due to strong wind gusts. Photo / Waka Kotahi NZTA via X

Lane closures are in place on the Auckland Harbour Bridge due to strong wind gusts. Photo / Waka Kotahi NZTA via X

Strong wind warnings are in place for Auckland from Whangaparāoa northwards. They began at 6pm last night and are expected to continue until at least 9am this morning.

Strong wind gusts elsewhere could damage trees, power lines and unsecured structures. Driving could also be hazardous, especially for high-sided vehicles and motorcycles.

It was anticipated Auckland would experience heavy rain and easterly gales this morning. The front is expected to pass over Northland before daybreak and early morning, then move over northern Auckland and the Coromandel Peninsula during the morning. Localised rainfall rates of 10-25mm/h were possible.

In the late morning and into the afternoon, there is a low chance of thunderstorms spreading into southern Auckland.

Northland residents were warned to secure their trampolines and not to head out in caravans, which are liable to tip over in exposed places.

A heavy rain warning is in place for the region, which began at 8pm last night.

Metservice warned residents to expect a further 50mm to 80mm of rain, especially in eastern areas, with peak rates of 15 to 25mm/h.

Additionally, scattered heavy showers and thunderstorms are forecast after the heavy rain has eased on Monday.

Images from the rescue of a yachtie on North Cape yesterday morning show particularly wild weather, with the helicopter pilot who flew him to safety saying the winds were comparable with Cyclone Gabrielle.

MetService meteorologist Alain Baillie said wind gusts of 142km/h had already been recorded in Cape Rēinga, similar to the gusts that Cyclone Gabrielle brought earlier this year.

The winds caused swells of up to 10m at times, which battered a 12m yacht off the coast of the cape and led to a dramatic rescue.

Rescue swimmer-paramedic Dan Short is winched down to retrieve a stricken yachtie 25 nautical miles east of North Cape. Photo / Northland Rescue Helicopter

Rescue swimmer-paramedic Dan Short is winched down to retrieve a stricken yachtie 25 nautical miles east of North Cape. Photo / Northland Rescue Helicopter

The skipper signalled for help around 9am - after the Juan Sabulan began to take on water - which the Northland and Auckland Westpac Rescue Helicopter crews soon responded to.

The sea conditions were so rough that Northland Rescue Helicopter co-pilot Bernie McQueen kept watch on the swells, warning pilot Steve Couchman to lift the aircraft away from dangerous surges of water as they hovered near the stricken yacht.

Further down the country in the Coromandel, severe gales of up to 120km/h in exposed places are expected on the Coromandel Peninsula as the weather system tracks down towards the region.

The region has been under a heavy rain watch since 9pm last night, with 100-140mm expected to fall at peak rates of 15-25mm/h from this morning. Thunderstorms are possible.

MetService is warning this may cause streams and rivers to rise rapidly, and surface floods and slips are also possible, making driving hazardous.

Thames-Coromandel District Mayor Len Salt said their emergency operation team set up shop yesterday afternoon as the district looks to bear the brunt of the extreme weather.

“We’ve got people and crews all around the peninsula ready to kick in whenever they need to,” Salt said.

Schools are closed today and bin collections have been cancelled due to the forecast heavy rain and strong winds.

“We’ve asked people to stay away from the coastal areas - we’re expecting storm surges and big tides and big waves, so we ask people to just stay away from the shorelines,” Salt said.

Salt also advised residents to only travel if necessary, and was nervous about the already damaged road network being hit hard again.

“What we’re hoping is that this event will go through in a fairly short space of time and the damage will not be too bad,” Salt said.

Civil Defence controller Garry Towler urged Coromandel residents to “stock up on supplies, batteries and gas, check and clear drains in your neighbourhood”.

They had been told to tie down outdoor furniture and “review plans should you become isolated due to slips and flooding”.

“It is the remnants of a cyclone - we have king tides, storm surges, heavy rain, gale-force winds and ongoing land instability issues as a result of Gabrielle.”

Cyclone-ravaged East Coast residents were being told to get prepared yesterday.

From 3am this morning, residents in Gisborne from Tolaga Bay northwards are being told to expect 120mm to 170mm of rain, especially about the ranges with peak rates of 15mm to 25mm/h.

Waka Kotahi warned motorists to plan their journeys to “factor in potential delays; drive to the conditions and take care while driving”.

“Waka Kotahi is also asking people to expect the potential for short-notice road closures if the heavy rainfall reaches a point where a road closure is needed for the safety of all road users,” it wrote in a statement.

Rachel Maher is an Auckland-based reporter who covers breaking news. She has worked for the Herald since 2022.

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