Rain, gales expected to lash Waikato

HARRY PEARL AND MATT BOWEN
Last updated 14:20 21/01/2014
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CHRIS HILLOCK/Fairfax NZ
DARK CLOUDS ABOVE: Rachel McShane, prepared for a downpour on Church Rd in Hamilton. NZTA warns motorists to be careful, since rain after a long, dry spell makes driving conditions slippery and dangerous.

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The remnant of tropical cyclone June knocked down trees onto roads and roofs across the Waikato overnight.

Fire fighters were busy dealing to the damage from about 8pm till midnight.

Fire service communications shift manager Tania Matthews said they received about ten callouts for natural events and almost all of them were in the Waikato.

At 8.40pm the Morrinsville brigade spent an hour clearing a tree which had fallen onto someone's roof at Bexley Way.

About 20 minutes later and their colleagues in Morrinsville cleared a downed tree off Mangawhero Rd.

More trees were blown over onto roofs and roads as the night wore on in Paeroa and Tirau.

Power lines also came down in Paeroa this morning and the Hamilton Fire Brigade responded to a fallen tree on Vaile Rd, Newstead, at 6am

The wet weather looks set to disrupt holiday plans over next 24 hours, but firefighters and farmers are welcoming the conditions.

What remains of tropical cyclone June is forecast to move southeast over the country today, bringing periods of heavy rain and gales to much of the North Island before the weather clears ahead of the long weekend.

MetService forecaster Maryline Avery said Waikato would see heavy rainfall and easterly winds, before the winds turned southwest in the afternoon and the rain eased.

"It's very good for the gardens and the farmers I would think."

The rain is predicted to be the heaviest in eastern Bay of Plenty, Taranaki, Wairarapa, eastern Marlborough and the Kaikoura Coast.

But MetService put the Coromandel Peninsula on severe weather watch overnight and warned of the possibility of severe southwest gales in exposed areas by the afternoon.

Rain and a high of 25 degrees Celsius is forecast for Hamilton today.

Ms Avery said there would still be "a few showers" around on Wednesday and Thursday, but Friday looked to be fine.

Waikato Federated Farmers President James Houghton said the rain was needed as many parts of the Waikato were drier now than they were last year, when the North Island suffered through one of the most extreme droughts in memory.

"It is really starting to have an impact. The growth rates have diminished quite quickly over the past 10 days."

Niwa's December climate summary showed that soils were drier than usual across much of the North Island, especially central Waikato and the Central Plateau.

Mr Houghton said farmers would need about 40mm to 50mm to make a significant impact.

"People may not like it raining, but it's good for the whole community."

Several districts in the region are at Water Alert Level 1 which restricts sprinkler usage to between 6am and 8am and between 6pm and 8pm.

Principal rural fire officer for Thames Valley, Del Read, also hopes for a good burst of rain over the next 24 to 36 hours.

"It would have to be in excess of 50mm to make any difference at all," he said.

Mr Read said the fire risk was "very high" on the Coromandel Peninsula and firefighters were monitoring the situation closely.

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"It's really dry over the whole peninsula from Waihi north really.

"In the last month we've had a lot of persistent westerly winds which have been drying the ground out . . . We have had the odd half day or rain but it hasn't been enough.

Today's forecast has also prompted a warning to Waikato motorists from the NZ Transport Agency.

Glenda Dobbyn, media manager for the Waikato and Bay of Plenty region, said drivers needed to take extreme care on the slippery roads.

"Throughout the recent dry spell, dust, dirt, oil and other debris builds up on the road surface and when it rains, it can make driving conditions slippery and dangerous."

- Waikato Times

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