Defence force deployed to Coromandel in preparation for storm

Teresa Ramsey/Stuff.co.nz

Whakatete Bay resident Paul Moleta prepares for the worst.

Defence Force personnel and vehicles have been deployed across the Coromandel as the Cyclone Cook is about to hit the peninsula.

Coromandel residents in low-lying areas along the eastern seaboard of the Coromandel Peninsula, or those affected by king tides, were earlier asked to evacuate.

Civil Defence evacuation centres are open from 10am and are available to any residents in need.

The Thames coast road is closed again due to slips.
NZTA

The Thames coast road is closed again due to slips.

Thames District Council Civil Defence controller Garry Towler said in a video published at 1.30pm that NZDF unimogs were stationed in Tairua and Whitianga, working with local fire authorities, which had been activated and put on standby across the peninsula, to prepare for the stormy afternoon.

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He said estimated 100kmh winds were expected and 100ml of rain could fall between 2pm and 9pm.

"It's about to hit, we can feel it coming."

He said aerial surveys planned to be conducted by a rescue helicopter could not go ahead due to bad flying conditions.

"I have a high degree of confidence we have got as many people as we could to leave the peninsula or go to higher ground."

"We have had a report from Powerco that there has been a noticeable power decrease. From that we estimate a large number of people have got the message and made other arrangements."

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He asked anyone planning on coming to the peninsula to wait until at least Saturday.

There had been a trickle of people coming through the civil defence centres but no official evacuees.

Businesses were asked to ensure staff safety by closing early to allow staff to travel home.

All available council staff, along with urban and rural fire authorities, had been going door to door along low lying coastal areas prone to flooding to assess the risk.

He said civil defence was asking, not dictating, that people in those areas evacuate.

"At noon we will reassess and that will give us a picture of how many vulnerable situations we have on the peninsula."

"Anybody who feels unsafe where they are can go to a Civil Defence Centre."

The evacuation centres are at:

Coromandel - St John Ambulance  -  355 Tiki Road, Coromandel
Whitianga Town Hall – 22 Monk Street, Whitianga 
Tairua Hall – 210 Main Road, Tairua 
Whangamata Town Hall - 320 Port Road, Whangamata
Thames Civic Centre -  200 Mary Street, Thames

Five metre swells are expected across the Bay of Plenty coast. 

Tauranga City Council is advising people to stay away from beaches and coachlines due to storm surges and water inundation, along with coastal erosion. 

A strong wind warning is also in place for Thursday afternoon. 

Severe gales with gusts of 150km/h or more are possible. Coastal areas can expect large waves of five metres or more during this time, with storm surges and possible i​nundation and coastal erosion.

Residents in the seaside town of Whiritoa may have to fend for themselves for up to seven days if cut off during the storm.

There is a high risk road access to Whiritoa will be cut off in the wake of Cyclone Cook.

Hauraki District Civil Defence Controller Steve Fabish says the community was cut off by slips for a number of days following the Tasman Tempest last month and there is a strong likelihood this could happen again, considering the way the storm is tracking. Unlike surrounding low-lying

Eastern Coromandel coastal areas are currently being evacuated, the threat of severe tidal inundation in Whiritoa is low.   

"At this stage the storm is expected to hit the Coromandel Peninsula from 3pm until midnight. Our advice to travellers is stay away from the area until late Friday or Saturday at least," Fabish said.

Towler said many people had left the peninsula to stay with family and friends elsewhere.

Civil Defence had directed 50 motor caravans to leave the peninsula.

"Whangamata has been hammered by two recent storms causing flooding in residential areas, so that will be a focus."

Mercury Bay and Whitianga have coastal issues causing residential flooding, he said.

Civil Defence has established an Emergency Operations Centre in Ngaruawahia and will be monitoring the situation closely with teams ready to respond to flooding, slips, community welfare and any other issues from the storm.

​Road cordoned off

The Thames Coast Rd is cordoned off at Tararu, just north of Thames. 

Residents have been queuing at the cordon at Tararu, waiting for their turn to be escorted to their homes.

A pilot vehicle is escorting groups of Thames Coast residents to their homes, then bringing back groups of evacuees, who are being supported at the Thames Civic Centre in Mary St.

Groups of about a dozen cars are being taken one at a time. By the time the pilot vehicle returns, another dozen cars are waiting to be escorted. This has been going on since 6:30am this morning.

Many residents braved dozens of slips on the Thames Coast Rd this morning to get into Thames for supplies and medications.

Thames Pak'nSave, the only supermarket in the town, has been very busy with people stocking up before the storm.

Many shops and businesses in Thames will be closing at midday so staff can get home before the storm hits.

Weather closes Zoo

Hamilton Zoo will close at 1pm as the region prepares for the impact of Cyclone Cook.

Many animals on display at the zoo will be taking shelter out of view of visitors, Hamilton City Council said. 

"The forecast weather conditions include very strong winds and intense rainfall, and zoo management considers animal welfare and staff safety paramount."

The zoo will reopen for business at 9am on Good Friday after the usual enclosure checks and remain open for the rest of Easter weekend.

Council warnings

Hamilton City Council is urging residents to be prepared for flooding, power cuts or potential property damage as ex-Tropical Cyclone Cook hits the city on Thursday evening.

Incident Response Team manager Kelvin Powell said peak rainfalls and high winds are expected between 4pm and 6pm.

"We are hoping for the best but preparing for the worst," Powell said.

"Driving conditions could be treacherous at peak time this evening and we urge people to avoid any non-essential travel ... we are expecting very heavy rain for a few hours.

"The ground is already saturated, our stormwater networks are already under pressure, and additional rainfall simply has nowhere to go."

Bus services to the Gardens have been halted for the remainder of Thursday.

There have been extensive river path closures and all community sports fields are closed for the evening to preserve the turf for possible play on the weekend.

Governing bodies for the various sports have been left to make final decisions on whether matches go ahead this weekend and players and officials should contact their sport's governing body directly for information on any postponements or cancellations.

River levels are likely to exceed the protective structures for the Eastern Bulk Main repair site on the banks of the Waikato River.

This is one of the city's most important water mains and it was affected by a slip in the area earlier this year.

"As a precaution, until river levels drop, we will be shutting down this main. We will be supplying the city from only the Western side during the shutdown, so there will be significantly less water to go around.

"As a result we would ask all residents to minimise all non-essential water usage, to help with getting supply around the city."

Council's call centre and service teams have responded to a large number of requests for assistance and notifications of surface flooding in the past 24 hours and additional staff and contractors have been brought in to deal with the cyclone's impacts.

Anyone who wishes to report an incident can call the council service line on 838 6699.

Further notifications will be updated on Council's website and facebook page as well as through the Neighbourly website and other social media.

Sand bagging in Waikato

Residents in two houses on Ashworth Pl, Matamata are being threatened by a large lake forming at the back of their properties. 

Northern Fire Communications tweeted that they were in urgent need for sand bagging.

Some motorists hunkered down in a car overnight after becoming trapped by two trees on the Coromandel Peninsula. 

Strong winds downed multiple trees across the Waikato and Bay of Plenty overnight as wild weather began to hit the region. 

Waikato police Senior Sergeant Andrew O'Reilly said the motorists said they were trapped between two downed trees on State Highway 25 in Kereta in the Coromandel around 10.30pm on Wednesday.

He said fire crews were responding but the motorists were "happy to hunker down".

Coromandel firefighters did attend the job, Northern Fire Communications spokesman Colin Underdown said, but were unable to get through as the road was closed.

He said the motorists were happy to stay in the vehicle overnight after learning roading crews could not reach them until the morning.

"Roading crews were getting in contact with them."

He said four wheel drive vehicles were able to get through, but two wheelers were not. 

He did not have details on whether the motorists were still there. 

 

Roads affected

SH25 - Thames Coast Road – has been closed again at Ruamahunga Bay due to a major slip.

Thames Coast Rd remains closed between Waiomu and Preece Point because of several large and small slips.

"Contractors will be doing full patrol at first light to re-assess. There is likely to be debris and water on other sections of this state highway, so we recommend not travelling and checking further updates on NZTA website," Thames council said in a press release.

TCDC said no other roads were reported closed on Thursday morning, however members of the public who have been travelling advised them that there are a few minor slips and a bit of surface flooding.

Ex-Cyclone Cook is projected to make landfall over the Coromandel this afternoon.

"The precise track of the Cyclone centre may change as the system approaches, yet it is expected we will have at least 150-250mm of rain during this weather event until midnight tonight with some pretty gnarly winds, damaging severe gales with gusts of 150 kmh or more are possible, and potential thunderstorms," a statement from the council said.

People are advised to avoid visiting the Coromandel until at least Saturday, and if people decide to make the trip, be prepared to turn back. 

SH2 - is closed between Paengaroa and Matata due to a large tree and a slip across the road. 

The highway is closed near the Pikowai camping ground, east of Mimiha Rd. 

Contractors are expecting to get one lane open by 8pm.

Roads closed:

SH25 Thames Coast Rd closed Tararu to Preeces Point.

SH2 Pikowai closed between Paengaroa and Matata.

Colville Rd – Open to single lane at various place due to slips and vegetation

Te Kouma Rd – Open to single lane at various places due to slips

Waiomu Valley Road Ford is impassable due to flooding

Victoria No.2 Ford is impassable due to flooding

Maurice Road, Glen Murray

Churchill Rd between 8km and 11km mark, Pukekawa

Clarke and Denize Road, Pukekawa

Klondyke Road, Te Kohanga

Koheroa Road between Kellyville Road and Glass Road intersections, Mercer

Pioneer Road and Bluff Road, Pokeno

Richardson Road, Waikaretu

Partially open

Allan and Eyre Road, Onewhero

Kellyville Road (closed to heavy vehicle traffic), Mercer

McIntyre Road, Waiterimu

Pororua Road, Waiterimu

River Road, Tuakau

Te Puroa Road, Ngaruawahia

Waikaretu Valley Rd, Waikaretu

Wairamarama-Onewhero Road

Waingaro Road, Glen Massey

 - Stuff

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