Upper North Island hit by rain, gales

03:44, Jul 16 2009

Heavy wind and rain are hitting the top of the country as people in the upper half of the North Island prepare for a weekend of wild weather.

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Winds of up to 110kmh are being recorded at Cape Reinga in the Far North, Radio New Zealand reported, with gusts topping 100kmh being recorded as far south as the Hauraki Gulf.

Wind and rain are also hitting Auckland, with some gusts approaching gale-force strength.

"The barometer at Cape Reinga has dropped a lot - twenty hectoPascals in the 24 hours ending 1pm Saturday," commented Bob McDavitt from the MetService.

"This confirms that the subtropical low is on track."

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The MetService has issued Severe Weather Warnings for strong winds in Northland, Auckland, Coromandel Peninsula, eastern Waikato and eastern Bay of Plenty, and for heavy rain in Northland, Auckland (north of Whangaparaoa and about Great Barrier Island), Coromandel Peninsula, Kaimai Ranges, and Gisborne.

People have been warned to prepare for possible power cuts and property damage from the forecast stormy weather, with the MetService saying the sub-tropical storm currently tracking towards New Zealand was  approximately 800km away.

"This low, so far, is following the expected path", commented Mr McDavitt. "However, any small change in track could result in a concentration of extra wind and rain. People planning outdoor activities on Sunday in northern and eastern areas will need to keep checking the latest weather forecasts and warnings. The surf is likely to be dangerous on all those normally placid eastern beaches."

Forecasters today also said driving conditions were likely to be hazardous.

Surface flooding could be expected, as well as slips, rapidly rising stream and rivers, and damage to trees and buildings.

Heavy rain was likely to spread south today, before easing in most places from tomorrow afternoon.

Up to 150mm of rain was possible in Northland, especially about the eastern hills from Whangarei northwards. About 120mm was expected to fall in the Auckland region, the Coromandel Peninsula and the Kaimai Range.

The heavy rain was predicted to hit the Gisborne area from tonight through to midday Monday, with readings of up to 150mm forecast. The rain would be accompanied by gale force easterlies, with gusts expected to reach 140kmh today and tomorrow.

WeatherWatch.co.nz head weather analyst Philip Duncan warned people to prepare for power cuts and other disruptions. "We're not wanting to alarm people," he said.

"This is a moderate storm, but people should be prepared for power cuts and the potential for some damage."

- NZPA