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Extreme weather causes havoc across regions



Waitomo flooded over the weekend (online image)

Praneeta Mahajan

Hamilton, January 31, 2023

The weather continued to create havoc across the North Island with wild weather moving further down the country after Auckland, with Waitomo the second region to declare a state of emergency over the weekend.

While the country felt anxious, waiting for updates and wondering how the situation was emerging, the visuals told the story of the loss and helplessness of Aucklanders and residents of North Island, affected by unprecedented rains.

Update from Hamilton

Following the heavy downfalls over the long weekend, some parts of the Waikato River paths are closed due to surface flooding.

These closures will remain in place as the river is expected to remain at higher levels over the next week.

Since the adverse weather began, Hamilton City Council monitored the situation and had been working with Waikato Regional Council which manages river levels with Mercury Energy.

Hamilton Civil Defence Controller Kelvin Powell said he was confident that while there will be small fluctuations around the increased river levels this week, roads and housing in low-lying areas such as Ann Street and Awatere Avenue are currently safe from surface flooding.

House collapsed in Tauranga over the weekend after severe weather conditions (RNZ image)

He said, “Please do take extra care along our river paths where they remain open. We ask people not to play near the river or swim in it. Waikato River poses many hidden dangers including steep drop-offs, strong currents and hidden objects like tree branches. These dangers increase following bad weather.”

In response to all the people who have worked tirelessly over the weekend to ensure our city stays as safe as possible during these extreme weather events, Mayor Paula Southgate said a big thank you.

She said “Thank you to our amazing emergency services, Council staff, and others such as building inspectors, who travelled up to Auckland to assist with assessing flood-stricken areas over the last few days. I want to encourage everyone in the community to continue to stay safe, check on your neighbours and loved ones, and always be cautious around any flooded areas.”

Waikato And Bay of Plenty over the weekend

While the clean-up continued, officials had warned to brace for more rain as Waikato, Waitomo and Mount Taranaki all had heavy rain watches and Manawatu, Tararua, Kapiti-Horowhenua, and Wairarapa were under a severe thunderstorm watch.

NZ Police continued to support lead agencies across the North Island during severe weather conditions.

Police assisted with traffic management and road closures throughout the Waitomo District after heavy rainfall caused numerous slips, flooding, and road damage.

In Tauranga, a landslide caused a house to collapse and threatened neighbouring properties. Fortunately, no one was seriously injured.

Police assisted with evacuations in Tauranga and while the heavy overnight rain on Sunday eased,  more rain forecast coincided with Monday afternoon’s high tide, making it clear that the city was not out of the woods yet.

The Bay of Plenty Regional Council urged people to stay away from rivers and floodwaters, which, they stated could become ‘very dangerous, very quickly’ due to the risk of contamination, debris and slips.

Te Puke Bridge flooded making access impossible for residents (Image supplied)

State highway 29 at Lower Kaimai closed after multiple slips. The highway connects Tauranga to the Waikato over the Kaimai Ranges. Waka Kotahi asked travellers to avoid the area or delay their journey.

The Mangaekewa Stream in Waikato was overflowing on Saturday, 28 January due to the severe weather in the region causing flooding and road closures in Te Kuiti, Waikato.

Other roads around the area were also blocked and Police worked alongside Civil Defence Emergency Management, local councils, and other agencies in response.

State Highway 26 had been closed 5km north of Te Aroha as the Waihou river burst its banks in the early hours of Monday morning. While the traffic movement resumed after almost 4 hours, there was water on the roads, and motorists were asked to drive with extreme care in the weather conditions and avoid travel if possible.

There was widespread flooding across the Bay of Plenty and slips that heavily affected roads. Police were asking those in areas experiencing severe weather to stay put and not attempt to travel on the roads, many of which are currently undrivable.

Weekend in Rotorua

Rotorua Lakes Council had been working hard following the surface flooding caused by the Ngongotahā Stream rising rapidly earlier this morning. A key message for the weekend was to consider if any trips could be delayed or avoided, as There were several slips around the region and many roads are closed. And for those who had to travel, the message was to drive to the conditions, be aware of any damage to roads or slips and allow extra time for detours or for slips to be cleared.

Anyone required to evacuate will be contacted directly by Civil Defence or emergency services staff.

While some surface water on our pathways is normal following bad weather, the public is being urged to report any paths, parks, roads or boardwalks affected such as flooding, slips or fallen trees.

Walkways around Waikato river flooded in Hamilton (Image supplied)

Further warnings in Place

Although there has been some respite from the heavy rain, MetService New Zealand has issued a heavy rain warning for the Bay of Plenty this coming Wednesday, 1 February into the early hours of Thursday 2 February.

Between 6 am Wednesday to 3 am Thursday, MetService has forecasted 90 to 140mm of rain for the Bay of Plenty, with the largest amounts likely around the inland areas west of Whakatane.

Council staff and contractors are monitoring this, and we will keep sharing updates with any further information as they emerge.

Updates from MetService New Zealand

As of morning today, Tuesday 31 January 2022, the MetService has shared updates on the Severe Weather Warnings for various regions which included-

Further heavy rain and thunderstorms for northern New Zealand along with possible severe gale northeasterly.

Red- Heavy rain warnings are in place for Northland, Auckland north of Orewa and the Coromandel Peninsula.

Orange- Heavy rain warnings are in place for Auckland from Orewa southwards, Great Barrier Island, Bay of Plenty and northern Gisborne.

Yellow- Heavy rain watches are now in place for Waikato, Mount Taranaki, northwest Tasman and Westland.

Yellow- A watch for severe northeast gales is also in place for Northland and Auckland, with large waves affecting eastern coastlines.

Praneeta Mahajan is an Indian Newslink correspondent based in Hamilton.

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