Clean up begins as Cyclone Wilma heads out to sea
Former tropical cyclone Wilma is now well clear of the North Island, heading quickly out into the Pacific Ocean but leaving a big clean up operation for the island and high winds forecast for the rest of the country.
Apart from the Chatham Islands the system no longer posed a threat to the country, said Weatherwatch.co.nz weather analyst Philip Duncan.
However, strong winds in her wake were now pushing across the nation. Gale or near gale winds were affecting exposed parts of the Far North, Auckland, Taupo, East Cape, Gisborne, Hawke's Bay, Taranaki, Wanganui and Manawatu, he said.
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In the South Island near gale winds were also pushing into exposed parts of Canterbury, the West Coast and Southland.
The northern part of the North Island is this afternoon cleaning up in Wilma's wake, which raised fears for two people believed missing after their house broke to pieces sliding down a bank and onto the beach at Onetangi, on Waiheke Island, this morning.
They were found safe and firefighters also had to use a boat to rescue a man and woman stuck up trees in Pipiwai, 43km northwest of Whangarei.
Around 70 people from Kaeo through to Kawakawa were evacuated overnight, however residents from Kawakawa are returning to their homes as the floodwaters recede.
About 280mm of torrential rain fell in the eastern hill country of Northland over 12-14 hours from 1pm on Friday, causing substantial damage to the region's road network and some water and sewage treatment plants.
River levels were dropping and much of the floodwater is receding quickly, said Tony Phipps, of Northland Civil Defence.
Most roads around the region are expected to reopen over the next 24 hours with crews working to remove slip debris.
Local councils say a number of areas have been affected by flooding, and some communities are still cut off.
There is still substantial disruption to traffic flows on State Highway 1 _ State Highway at Dome Valley and SH16 had reponed but Phipps still urged motorists to stay off the roads.
Paihia's water treatment plant was also damaged and residents are being asked to conserve water over the next 24 hours.
Power outages continue in many coastal communities in the Far North.
Phipps says exposed sewage pipes in Opua and potentially sewage-contaminated floodwaters and harbours are a concern.
There could be health risks from swimming or collecting shellfish from the region's harbours over the next couple of days.
Boaties are also being warned to keep an eye out for any debris or navigational hazards around our harbours and coastline over the coming days.
Wilma's wet legacy saw Mt Maunganui near Tauranga closed to the public until Wednesday after severe mud slides and landslips following torrential rain made the area unsafe.
The New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) said driving conditions would remain hazardous as surface flooding and slips on many state highways and roads in the northern Auckland region and Northland.
People should only travel if absolutely necessary.
''Although the sun has returned to many places, flood waters still persist and we do need to do more detailed inspections in some places to assess slips and other storm-related damage,'' says the NZTA's state highways manager for Auckland and Northland, Tommy Parker.
Bay of Plenty Regional Council rivers and drainage staff are also busy responding to flooding-related calls including over-flowing drains, streams and canals.
The Bay of Plenty District Health Board has warned that people should avoid swimming in all rivers, streams and harbours for 48 hours as farm run-off may have contaminated them with sewage. Sewage overflows have also been reported in Tauranga Harbour and residents were urged to conserve water for the next 24 hours.
Numerous roads on the Coromandel Peninsula were closed due to slips today.
Roading contractors were working hard to clear the slips but many roads may remain inaccessible throughout the weekend.
Thames-Coromandel District Council operations manager, Greg Hampton, said ''stormwater and sewage systems are under severe pressure and working at full capacity.''