Northland on brink of more severe floods

JOSH FAGAN
Last updated 22:32 11/07/2014

Car pulled from flood

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Northland residents are facing a long night ahead as a looming storm threatens to cause further havoc.

Residents in some areas have begun to evacuate their homes amid rising floodwater.

Northland Civil Defence said tonight several residents in Moerewa had self-evacuated.

Emergency crews are providing assistance through the night and are urging anyone seeking shelter or assistance to contact their local district council – FNDC 0800 920 029 or in the case of an emergency call 111.

There were 44 roads still closed at 10pm, including State Highway 11 - Paihia to Kawakawa - and State Highway 12, Parore to north of Dargaville.

Surface flooding has already hit towns including Moerewa, Kaitaia, Kawakawa and Kaeo.

Food and water supplies have been trucked in ahead of what was expected to be a "final flurry of wind, rain and flooding", Civil Defence spokesman Graeme MacDonald said.

More than 300 millimetres has fallen in some parts of Northland since Tuesday. Another 120mm is forecast to fall before 9am tomorrow.

It loomed as the "sting in the tail" of a prolonged spell of bad weather, MacDonald said.

"The catchments and rivers are very full. This rain coming tonight has the potential to be very bad. It won't take much to overflow."

THUNDERSTORM WATCH

The MetService says a tornado and thunderstorms may hit Northland's east coast on Saturday.

The forecast, issued late on Friday night, said there was a risk that a small tornado could reach coastal areas in the East before midday.

A Severe Thunderstorm Watch has been put in place for Northland, Auckland, Great Barrier Island and Coromandel Peninsula.

The service said if any tornadoes occur, they will only affect very localised areas but may cause some structural damage, including damage to trees and power lines.

Gale-force winds and extreme rain are also due to sweep across the region, in yet another day of wild weather.

"A very active front is expected to move onto northern Northland around midnight tonight, and gradually move south to lie over southern Auckland by midday Saturday," the warning said.

An extreme downpour was predicted to reach up to 25 millimetres to 40 millimetres per hour. 

Rainfall of that intensity can cause flash flooding, especially in low-lying areas such as streams, rivers or narrow valleys, and may also lead to slips,  the MetService warned.

There were unconfirmed reports of more flooding to homes in Kaitaia today. The Fire Service and police were assisting with checking on damaged areas and reminding residents to brace for more storms this evening, MacDonald said.

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POWER PROBLEMS

Further damage to electricity networks was also possible.

Kaitaia's chief fire officer Colin Kitchin told ONE News: "It's like a war zone, it really is."

Gusts of up to 110kmh will hit Auckland and Northland up until 4am.

Vector said most Auckland customers have had their power restored, with only a couple of streets in New Lynn still being worked on.

But more could be without power with threats of debris blowing around and trees and branches snapping.

Roads have been closed today in several towns, including Kawakawa and Moerewa.

Moerewa Blue Lagoon Four Square employee Sunida said the weather had been a "major disruption" and caused damage to farms and animals nearby.

"It's been a difficult week. It's not good. We're still open but we may have to close early," she said.

Customers were stocking up on supplies and keeping a close eye on the weather forecast, Sunida said.

 

Damage has already affected farm buildings, fencing and infrastructure.

The Northland Rural Support Trust (NRST) is urging farmers in affected areas to ensure stock are moved to higher ground.

With pastures saturated and power to fences compromised, it is essential to attempt to prevent stock gaining access to saved pastures.

Residents are asked to check on how neighbours are coping, especially those who may be new to the area and have not experienced this type of storm and the damage it does to Northland's clay-type soils.

POWER STILL OUT FOR THOUSANDS

Thousands of Far North households are still without power after this week's storm and may have to wait until Sunday to be back on the grid.

While all but 73 Auckland households have had power restored, 3600 homes - many at the very top of the North Island - were without electricity.

Most of Top Energy's repair crews were stood down at 6pm yesterday and a spokesman said they were all are now fully rested and ready to resume work, along with colleagues drafted in from other regions.

There is one remaining fault on a main feeder line, in the part of the network supplied from Kaitaia, which needed to be repaired and Top Energy expected to have the "backbone" of the network repaired by the end of today.

Company chief executive Russell Shaw warned that some of those without power face a fifth or potentially a sixth night without it.

"I'm sorry to say that, at this stage, it looks like some customers may not have electricity until Sunday morning," he said.

The power picture was much rosier elsewhere.

Further south, around 200 Northpower customers are still without power - down from a peak of 14,000.

Most of those were in pockets of the West Coast.

Northpower Network General Manager Graham Dawson said crews had worked diligently to restore power as quickly as possible.

"I recognise some people are still inconvenienced and we are genuinely sorry for that. We are doing our best and hope to make more progress tomorrow - our crews have been working very hard in some very difficult conditions."

He says flooding and high winds continue to prevent some repairs being undertaken and wants people to remain well clear of downed powerlines.

The NZ Transport Agency said State Highway 12 was this morning closed north of Dargaville at the Rotu Culvert.

At 9.50am the NZTA said SH12 was closed north of Dargaville and SH11 was closed at Lemons Hill, between Kawakawa and Paihia.  

- Stuff

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