Cyclone Pam weakening as it nears New Zealand
Wet weather has reached parts of the North Island as a downgraded Cyclone Pam tracks closer to New Zealand.
Cyclone Pam is 500km east-northeast of Cape Reinga moving swiftly southeast at 55 kmh.
The cyclone has left a path of destruction in Vanuatu, where dozens of people were feared killed when it hit yesterday.
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Metservice manager of forecasting operations Ramon Oosterkamp said the cyclone was expected to recurve southward before passing about 150km east of East Cape at midday on Monday.
By 11pm, winds were increasing along eastern shores of Northland, through the Hauraki Gulf, Coromandel and Bay of Plenty.
Southeast winds were gusting 110 to 120kmh in exposed places late Sunday night, with waves of 4.5 metres near Tutukaka in Northland.
Metservice meteorologist Arno Dyason said there had been reports of offshore gusts as high as 125 kmh accompanied by large swells, and of a power outage in Kamo in Whangarei.
Rain was falling in Gisborne with around 200mm expected to accumulate around Gisborne, the ranges of northern Hawkes Bay and eastern Bay of Plenty, with lesser but still significant amounts near the coast of northern Hawkes Bay and the hills and ranges further south.
About 90mm of rain is expected to accumulate around eastern Northland over an 18-hour period. Rivers and streams in those areas are expected to rise rapidly, and localised surface flooding and slips are likely as well as hazardous driving conditions.
Great Barrier Island was predicted to bear the brunt of the Auckland region's weather overnight with severe gales forecast and the possibility of heavy rain.
Great Barrier business owner Chris Ollivier said it was "starting to blow reasonably hard" by 9.45pm.
There had been gusts in the channel of up to 75kmh though he predicted they would have gained in intensity. He said swell was not as big as he had expected but the biggest seas were forecast for about daybreak on Monday.
Those conditions could affect low-lying areas on Barrier's east coast, he said.
Metservice said Auckland north of Orewa was expected to experience a "wet and very windy night and overnight period".
"Waiheke Island, in particular Bottom End (eastern end) will likely experience strong Southerly gales overnight," the forecaster said.
Monday's ferry services from Gulf Harbour and Whangaparaoa have been cancelled due to expected high winds.
A decision on whether other ferry services would continue would be made on Monday morning, an Auckland Transport spokesman said.
Civil Defence responded to unions who said workers were receiving conflicting advice over whether to go to work on Monday.
Auckland Civil Defence Controller Clive Manley said "we're not saying people should stay away but we're saying traffic is going to be congested".
He said Civil Defence suggested those that could work at home might find it a good idea just as a way to avoid the inevitable traffic congestion on the roads created by debris.
"There will be access but it will be slow," he said.
Auckland Maritime Police rescued a boat that had broken its moorings in Waitemata Harbour on Sunday afternoon.
Another boat had also broken moorings near one of Auckland's eastern beaches and had to be rescued, he said.
Westlake said many people were observed battening down their hatches today and he advised people to leave their boats alone overnight, no matter the weather, as attempting to reach them in the dark could be dangerous.
The cyclone weakened to a category 4 storm as it tracks down the Pacific to New Zealand and was expected to be downgraded to a tropical storm around 7am.
GISBORNE REGION READY
Gisborne Civil Defence is urging people to put off all travel to or from the region on Monday when Cyclone Pam is expected to deliver south-east gales of between 130 and 150 kmh, about 200mm of "intense" rain, and high seas.
In addition, swells of nine metres were forecast for Tolaga Bay and as the storm is predicted to coincide with a high tide, coastal State Highway 35 is expected to be inundated in places.
Extra emergency services have been moved into the eastern Bay of Plenty in preparation. Anaura Bay and Nuhiti have been evacuated.
Civil Defence said people with high health needs had been assessed and alternative arrangements made. All ships have been moved out of Gisborne port and boats able to be moved have been shifted out of the marina.
Gisborne emergency manager Richard Steele said people should "respond to the conditions" and make their own decision about travelling to work in the morning.
The Fire Service has reallocated crews to "vulnerable" coastal areas in advance of Cyclone Pam.
Deputy National Commander Paul McGill said 70 firefighters and 30 appliances had been moved on Saturday to support local crews.
"Getting in early will enable us to respond more effectively when the cyclone hits," he said.
An Auckland-based force has been moved to Northland, Hamilton and Rotorua crews have reinforced the eastern Bay of Plenty and a Wellington taskforce has been moved to Hawke's Bay which will in turn support Poverty Bay.
McGill said the Fire Service had activated three regional and five local co-ordination centres to assist with any flooding, slips or damage that might occur.
MetService meteorologist Peter Little said north-eastern parts of the North Island from Northland down into the Bay of Plenty, Gisborne and Hawke's bay should brace for strong weather on Sunday evening.
"Severe and dangerous weather is still expected in the north-east parts of the country ... as the cyclone approaches, or by the time it gets here it may be a deep low but it doesn't really matter what it's called, we're going to have some strong weather."
Whangarei's mayor said her region was well prepared but she was worried about the danger of the large swells.
"Our major concern is the swells, making sure people are securing their boats and any loose material on coastal properties," Sheryl Mai said.
The coastline would take a battering and she advised motorists to stay off the roads unless there was an emergency.
It was already raining in eastern Northland and things would pick up later, with winds in the area reaching up to 120kmh.
But the real brunt was expected to be felt on the eastern coast of the North Island, with about 200mm of rain and winds gusting more than 160kmh possible.
These would hit the area late Sunday evening and continue overnight and into Monday morning.
The cyclone was also creating huge swells that would bring big and possibly damaging waves to the country, Little said. "It will be extremely large waves and quite dangerous conditions."
Gisborne Mayor Meng Foon said the region was well-prepared.
"Civil Defence is all prepared, all the government departments, council, police, ambulance, lifeline, contractors, power, telecommunications, gas - all are standing by, our community is prepared, they've all been well informed."
Supermarkets were running low on water and candles as people stocked up, and he advised residents they looked after their pets and neighbours as well as themselves.
The arrival of Cyclone Pam has brought bad news for some events around the country.
The threat of the storm forced US band The Eagles to bring forward their concert start time to 6pm.
The Southern Hemisphere's largest equestrian show could also be affected.
Organisers of the Horse of the Year show, a five-day event due to begin at the Hawke's Bay A & P showgrounds on Tuesday, are scrambling as the looming bad weather heads towards the region.
Event director Kevin Hansen said staff were holding an emergency meeting to come up with a contingency plan if the event could not be set up in time.
"It's having quite a major effect at the moment...by tomorrow morning we'll have a thousand trucks camping on the ground."
It was possible some early events would have to be postponed, but it would depend on the severity of the weather, he said.