Remains of cyclone to affect North Island
As Fiji and Samoa assess the damage caused by Cyclone Evan, the storm remains on course to hit New Zealand this weekend, making for the possibility of a wet and windy Christmas for the north and east of the North Island.
MetService yesterday updated its long-range forecast for Taranaki, predicting showers and rain for all next week.
Since Evan left Fiji it has slowly travelled south towards New Zealand, but forecasters were yesterday uncertain exactly where it would hit the country.
"There is a split between the computer models. It is either heading quite close to Northland or quite close to East Cape," MetService forecaster Allister Gorman said.
MetService said there could be flooding and winds strong enough to knock over trees and power lines.
But no one should cancel their holiday plans yet.
"We don't want to frighten people away," Mr Gorman said.
"Gisborne and Northland are big holiday spots, and while we are uncertain we don't want to put a kibosh on one.
People need to check the forecast closer to the weekend."
While the storm was travelling over open ocean it was very difficult to monitor the atmospheric conditions it encountered as it tracked south, he said.
Typically, when cyclones closed in on New Zealand they changed from being a tropical cyclone to being a mid-latitude low, with the strength of the winds dropping and the rain easing, but with the system covering a larger area.
"When it is in the tropics it has to pass very close to those islands to do damage," Mr Gorman said.
"When it comes to New Zealand you can still be hundreds of kilometres from the centre and you can still get damaging winds."
Meanwhile, life in cyclone-ravaged Samoa and Fiji was starting to get back to normal yesterday, with many tourists continuing with their holidays.
In Fiji, a state of natural disaster has been declared in the country's northern and western divisions. National Disaster Management Office director Manasa Tagicakibau said the order would allow authorities to speed up rehabilitation work.
Fiji Tourism Secretary Elizabeth Powell said the military had been dispatched to help hotels as well as local residents. She said most, if not all, main roads had been cleared, so emergency services were moving quite freely between damaged areas.