Bad weather moves onto country

HERE IT COMES: A Metservice rain map shows the tropical low hitting New Zealand.
HERE IT COMES: A Metservice rain map shows the tropical low hitting New Zealand.

The weather system that brought chaos to the Solomon Islands and battered Queensland is about to hit New Zealand.

The leading edge of the remains of Cyclone Ita expected to bring gales and heavy rain to much of the country started moving on to Northland today.

The worst of the weather was expected to hit tomorrow, with MetService warning of the risk of wind damage to powerlines and trees, while the rain was expected to cause rivers to rise rapidly, as well as surface flooding and slips.

Driving conditions would be hazardous.

The prospect of widespread rain was raising hopes that the months-long dry period in many parts of the North Island would end.

Cyclone Ita developed from a tropical depression that dumped intense rain on the Solomon Islands, leading to flash floods and landslides that killed 21 people a week ago. It then smashed into northern Queensland in recent days.

"The inbound tropical low will certainly pack a decent punch, with heavy rain, downpours and very strong winds for many parts of the country," MetService communications meteorologist Daniel Corbett said.

Initially a slow-moving front would bring continuing persistent and heavy rain to parts of central New Zealand today before easing slightly by this evening.

During the night a heavy rain band associated with a tropical low to the west of the country would sweep down across the north of the North Island, he said.

Exposed eastern locations from Northland to the Bay of Plenty could get wind gusts above 110kmh along with torrential downpours.

The rain-band would spread across the remainder of the country later tomorrow, or on Friday, Corbett said.

Many eastern places would feel the brunt of the heavy rain and strong winds as well as some higher-than-normal seas at high tide.

Gusts up to 140kmh were likely in exposed western and central areas tomorrow from Northland to Wellington and the northern and western parts of the South Island, MetService said.

A burst of heavy rain was expected for many parts of the North Island and northern and eastern parts of the South Island.

Further significant falls were expected about Nelson, Marlborough, Wellington and Taranaki, especially tomorrow, with 200 millimetres to 300mm likely about the ranges and 70mm to 100mm about some low-lying areas.

Heavy rain was also expected about the ranges of Coromandel Peninsula and western Bay of Plenty tomorrow.

"People in these areas are advised to watch out for rapidly rising streams and rivers, surface flooding, slips and hazardous driving conditions," MetService said.

Many other parts of the North Island, including Auckland, were expected to see a brief intense period of rain tomorrow.

Corbett said it was expected all areas hit by the long dry period would get some rain. Whether it would be enough to break the drought was hard to say.

"This is a really good shot in the arm ... It will make a heck of a difference," he said.

During recent storms, winds had kept rain from penetrating to some western areas.

"With this one there's a much better chance for most areas to get some rain."

The deep low will continue moving south over the weekend to run away to the south of New Zealand.

"This will usher in a change to a breezy northwest flow with a mixture of sunshine and showers over the country," MetService said.

For now it looking as though Easter Sunday would be a mix of sunshine and a few showers, specially in western areas of the country.