Wet, wet, wet but worst weather over

Last updated 15:44 24/01/2011

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Sunnier, drier and calmer weather is set to return to both islands over the next few days after heavy rain and strong winds wreaked havoc across the North Island yesterday.

In the North Island, lower humidity coupled with light winds should make for pleasant outdoor weather while in the South Island it would be a return to heat that would make many smile, as an anticyclone was set to bring fine weather throughout the country, WeatherWatch.co.nz head weather analyst Philip Duncan said today.

Yesterday, some parts of the South Island's east coast shivered under miserable conditions, including Kaikoura which recorded just 12degC at one point during the afternoon. Wellington also had cold winds and rain.

"But in true South Island-style warm winds will move back in tomorrow, lifting the highs into the mid to late 20s for most of the island, with some inland areas hitting the 30s again," Mr Duncan said.

"The storm responsible for the weekend's flooding is now moving away from New Zealand to the east and with it goes the wind and rain."

Gale force south westerlies affected Auckland at times today but those strong winds would quickly ease tonight with sunny spells increasing into the afternoon, Mr Duncan said.

However, many roads remained closed this morning in the top of the North Island.

Between 100-300mm of rain fell in the space of 24 hours and the Fire Service was called to 184 weather-related incidents in Northland, Auckland, Waikato and Bay of Plenty from midnight Saturday to midnight Sunday.

Of those, 101 callouts were in the Auckland area.

The areas worst-affected by flooding in Auckland were the lower central business district and eastern suburbs, Maraetai, Leigh, parts of State Highway 16, SH1, Tamaki Drive and Herald Island, where 30 homes were flooded.

But the waters had receded by this morning and a major cleanup was under way.

Waikato Civil Defence duty officer Greg Ryan yesterday said there was a risk of rivers flooding in Coromandel, Hauraki Plains and Taupo over the next three days.

About 300 people were evacuated from a Taupo campground yesterday morning.

Eastern Bay of Plenty rivers reached warning levels over the weekend but had now begun to recede, Bay of Plenty Regional Council community relations manager Bronwyn Campbell said.

Several roads in the area remain closed today due to surface water and river flooding.
Drivers were being warned to take care in the hazardous conditions with slips, surface flooding and high winds blasting the North Island.

Police said that the Desert Road between Waiouru and Turangi and the Manawatu Gorge, near Palmerston North, were closed this morning.

Motorists should also take extra care on State Highway 2 between Napier and Wairoa, SH3 from Wanganui to Taranaki, SH4 from Wanganui to Raetihi and SH5 from Napier to Taupo due to minor slips and surface water on roads.

WeatherWatch.co.nz said Tropical Cyclone Wilma would reach New Zealand this weekend bringing more wind and rain to northern and north eastern New Zealand.

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FLOODING FORCES EVACUATIONS

Yesterday huge waves lashed the Auckland coast. Rising waters forced homes and campgrounds to be evacuated, roads to be closed and events cancelled.

In Rotorua, there had been some minor wastewater overflows but sewer flows were under control and being closely monitored, Rotorua District Council utilities operations manager Eric Cawte said.

In Taupo, a Wellington father, 45, and daughter, 10, were plucked to safety from a rock in the Kuratau River, after waiting for nearly three hours in the cold. The pair became stranded on a rock in the fast-flowing white water on Friday night. They were winched off the rock by Taupo's Youthtown rescue helicopter.

More than 30 houses on Herald Island, off the northern edge of the Whenuapai air base in Auckland, had to be evacuated after flooding.

Henderson resident Gerard Haagh was among drivers who tackled the swamped, debris-covered Northwestern Motorway before it was partly closed yesterday afternoon.

"I've never seen it flood that badly before and I've lived here before the motorway was built."

Okahu Bay resident Anne Clere saw a "mindboggling" wave crash over the seawall along Tamaki Drive, knocking a man to the ground. "This poor man was trying to walk along the waterfront and the next minute was sitting on the footpath with the wave washing over him."

The bad weather forced the cancellation of aerobatics at the second day of the Wings Over Wairarapa airshow, and of the New Zealand Mountain Bike Cup downhill event in Rotorua.

About 300 people staying at the low-lying Spa Park campground in Taupo for a jousting tournament were told to leave, as mud threatened to trap campers' cars, Waikato Civil Defence spokesman Phil Parker said.

But there was one bright spot – Federated Farmers Bay of Plenty president John Scrimgeour said although it had created a few problems for farmers in low-lying areas, the rain was welcome.

"Most farmers are thrilled to have a good soak at this time of the year ... it's been generally very welcome, to set people up into the summer."

- NZPA with Imogen Neale, Michelle Duff and Michael Field

Watch YouTube footage of the flooding below:

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