Recovery process begins for the regions as ex-Cyclone Cook leaves NZ
The South Island bore the brunt of ex-Cyclone Cook overnight, as the storm moved south after heavy rain and high winds in Bay of Plenty, Gisborne and Hawke's Bay caused flooding, slips, fallen trees and widespread power outages overnight.
Coastal evacuation areas in the Whakatane district have been re-opened and some Edgecumbe residents have been allowed to return home.
While power outages continue in the area, residents are advised to minimise stress on their waste-water systems. Boil water notices are to remain in place throughout the district.
800 people are still without power in the Tairawhiti area of Gisborne, as of noon, with power being restored to 300 other homes, according to the council.
Blenheim residents were warned to stay alert mid-morning on Friday as a river next to their homes threatened to breach its banks.
About 40 properties in the Islington area were warned that a stopbank damaged in the November quake was at risk of breaching on Thursday.
Marlborough Civil Defence emergency services officer Gary Spence said the river was at 3.2 metres, while the limit was 3.8m.
The river would continue to be monitored over Friday and the weekend, Spence said.
Parts of Banks Peninsula near Christchurch had received rainfall of 60mm or more by 8am on Friday.
24hrs of radar. Mahia drops around 6am after 133km/h gust. Brushed Auckland, so close! ^RK pic.twitter.com/LrC458usgZ— MetService (@MetService) April 14, 2017
But MetService meteorologist Nick Zachar said Cantabrians should not lose hope of a clear afternoon despite another band of rain expected early on Friday morning.
He said the entire region received "quite a heavy, steady rain" from just after sunset and for the following 12 hours in most places.
"It looks like Akaroa reported 60mm over 12 hours. It's probably even higher than that in the hillier areas as well.
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The worst of the winds were over, but heavy rain would continue from Horowhenua down to Canterbury, MetService severe weather forecaster John Crouch said.
Eastern Marlborough, Kaikoura and Banks Peninsula would see strong winds and bands of heavy rain later in the morning as the storm passed east of them.
Ex-Cyclone Cook was expected to lie east of Banks Peninsula about 9am, continuing south to east of Oamaru about midday, and well east of Dunedin later in the afternoon. It would move south of the South Island and continue to weaken on Friday night.
"Most of the strongest winds were on the eastern side of the low - the ones that affected Bay of Plenty, Gisborne and Hawke's Bay overnight - so now that the low's moved offshore, south of the North Island, the strongest winds will continue to be offshore so they won't be affecting any land areas," Crouch said.
Flooding was possible around eastern Marlborough and Kaikoura, as well as surface flooding in Canterbury.
TRAIL OF DAMAGE
The worst of the storm hit on Thursday evening when it passed through Bay of Plenty, downing trees and power lines and leaving thousands in the dark.
Power cuts were reported throughout Bay of Plenty, Gisborne and Hawke's Bay. Areas affected in Bay of Plenty included Whakatane, Te Puke, Opotiki and Waimana.
Around 13,000 Hawke's Bay households were still without power late on Friday morning, Unison relationship manager Danny Gough said. Power had been restored to around 2000 customers.
"Our crews are making good progress out there. We have at least 50 staff from Hawke's Bay and have brought in extra crews from Rotorua and Taupo to help out.
"We realise it's a beautiful day now, but Cyclone Cook was very destructive and there's lots of repairs and clean up to do in its wake."
Unison aimed to have power restored to the majority of homes by Friday evening, but there would still be some homes in rural areas without power into the evening, Gough said.
Areas affected included St George's Rd, St Andrews Rd and Ada St, areas of Bayview, Bridge Pa and Brookvale Road.
Power was also out in parts of Rotorua. In Gisborne, affected areas included Tikitiki, Whakaangiangi, Makarika and Tauwhareparae.
Residents evacuated from parts of the eastern Bay of Plenty were advised that they could return home on Friday morning.
Whakatane District Council said rainfall was "unexpectedly light" overnight, with no houses affected and minimal coastal inundation damage.
Strong winds brought down trees and caused slips, including along State Highway 2 at the Matata straights, which was closed on Friday morning.
People evacuated from the Pohutukawa Ave and Harbour Rd areas could return to their homes, but the council said they should be aware that their water supply has been impacted.
"Conserve water and don't flush notices apply," the council said in a statement.
Parts of Ōhope and the Hillcrest and Mokorua areas in Whakatāne had no water supply available.
Power was still out across most of the district on Friday morning.
Boil water notices still applied to the Rangitaiki Plains, Rūātoki, Te Mahoe and Taneatua areas as of Friday morning.
The storm passed over southern Hawke's Bay and northern Wairarapa about midnight, bringing strong winds of up to 100km/h, as well as bands of heavy rain, Crouch said.
Rivers around Wairarapa and the Tararua Ranges were likely running high due to the downpours and there may be some surface flooding, he said.
Gisborne District Council opened several emergency sewer valves affecting the Taruheru, Waimata and Turanganui Rivers on Thursday night because of heavy rain.
"The valves are opened so sewage doesn't overflow back into people's homes and property," the council said. "The wastewater discharge is highly diluted with rain water, but there may be a risk to health for river users."
In the Coromandel Peninsula, people living in low-lying areas were asked to leave their homes before the storm hit.
By 5.30pm, Thames Coromandel District Council reported rain was starting to ease in the area. People who had evacuated were asked to stay where they were for the night, provided they felt safe.
The Thames Coast road was expected to be closed throughout Easter, and more slips were expected to come down on local roads and highways overnight.
NOT AS BAD AS EXPECTED
However, predictions that the storm would be the worst since 1968, when Cyclone Giselle sank the Wahine in Wellington's harbour, didn't come to fruition, Crouch said.
"It was quite localised and fast-moving so they did get some quite severe weather around the Bay of Plenty, Gisborne, Hawke's Bay area last evening and overnight as it tracked southwards, but ... it's been nowhere near as severe as Giselle and I think we've been quite fortunate that it was quite small and quite mobile," he said.
New Zealand had been lucky "in a way".
"It tracked a little further east than some of the original predictions, which means that Auckland in particular didn't get affected by it, and it probably wasn't as deep as some of the initial predictions as well."
There was also less rain than the deluges that Cyclone Debbie brought to Bay of Plenty last week which caused major flooding in Edgecumbe, Crouch said.
CLOSED FOR BUSINESS
The Ministry of Education said Cyclone Cook caused the closure of 137 schools and 133 early learning centres across the North Island. That affected 34,232 school students and 4339 pre-schoolers.
Auckland escaped the worst of the bad weather, with the centre of Cyclone Cook tracking a little further east, MetService said.
Earlier in the day, the city prepared for the worst, with gridlock on Auckland's motorways as people sought to head off for Easter for the before the storm hit, while others packed supermarkets buying up supplies.
The NZ Transport Agency reported several highways in Waikato, Bay of Plenty and Hawke's Bay were closed because of the weather, while many others were affected by slips and flooding.
Highways closed around 9.30pm on Thursday were:
- SH2 between Napier and Wairoa due to fallen trees
- SH34 from Edgecumbe to Te Teko due to fallen power lines
- SH30 Awakeri to Whakatane due to fallen power lines
- SH2 Otamarakau to Matata due to fallen trees
- SH25 Thames to Coromandel due to slips
The weather system made landfall in the Coromandel and Bay of Plenty areas at 7pm on Thursday. Cyclone Cook then moved down the country and was expected to be centred near Palmerston North at midnight, lie off the coast of Kaikoura at 6am (on Good Friday), and finally pass by the Otago coast at noon.
Civil Defence warned that the central North Island and Wellington could be hit hard overnight.
There would be heavy rain through central, southern and eastern parts of the North Island, with wind warnings in place as gusts of 140km/h were expected.
Heavy rain also fell in Kaikoura on Thursday, with more expected overnight. And in Blenheim about 40 properties were evacuated over concerns that a stop bank might breach.
AUCKLAND DODGES CYCLONE
Civil Defence said the Auckland region received 25-70mm of rain over the 24 hours up to Thursday evening, with 70mm falling in the west of Auckland and Great Barrier Island receiving 67mm.
Meanwhile, Aucklanders trying to flee the CBD amid dire warnings of Cyclone Cook's impact faced gridlock and flights were cancelled.
On Thursday morning, the New Zealand Transport Agency said the Auckland Harbour Bridge might close amid fears of 160km/h winds. However, by the afternoon, MetService meteorologist Arno Dyson said it was unlikely the bridge would be closed.
Early school and tertiary education closures caused earlier than expected delays on public transport, with students - as well as office workers - packing buses.
Red Cross communications adviser Lauren Hayes said about 120 people stayed at the Whakatane evacuation centre on Thursday night. Hayes said there were people trekking into the centre until 2am.
There were quite a few families with small children staying, she said. Most people arriving late were travellers attempting to get home to Ohope or Opitiki.
Despite what Edgecumbe residents had been through in the past week, Hayes said locals were "all rallying together to support each other".
Five metre swells were expected across the Bay of Plenty coast.
Tauranga City Council advised people to stay away from beaches and coachlines due to storm surges and water inundation, along with coastal erosion.
WAIKATO OFF LIGHTLY
Most of the Waikato region escaped unscathed from the wrath of ex-Cyclone Cook, although some roads were closed and residents were asked to conserve water.
The Kaimai Ranges between Waikato and Tauranga was completely closed on Friday morning after a major slip on the Hamilton side.
Waikato police Senior Sergeant Andrew O'Reilly said those dealing with the slip not far from the SH28 intersection felt the ground shaking as the slips came down.
In Waikato, water levels were close to maximum levels in a number of waterways.
Hamilton residents were asked to conserve water, as a major water main was shut down because of high levels in the Waikato River.
Matamata and Waharoa residents were being asked to conserve water urgently as the heavy rain caused flooding at one treatment station, causing damage to pumps.
DUNEDIN FLOODING FEARS ABATE
Flooding fears for Dunedin have receded, with less rain falling than originally forecast.
The Dunedin Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) would still monitor conditions as more rain was expected on Friday.
About 56mm of rain fell in the city in the 24 hours to 9am on Thursday – much less than forecast.