9 Feb 2023

Tropical Cyclone Gabrielle: Upper North Island residents urged to prepare

12:57 pm on 9 February 2023
The forecast path of Tropical Cyclone Gabrielle issued by the Bureau of Meteorology at 8am on Thursday 9 February.

The forecast path of Tropical Cyclone Gabrielle issued by Australia's the Bureau of Meteorology at 8am on Thursday. Photo: Bureau of Meteorology, Australia

Residents in the upper North Island are being urged to prepare as another cyclone heading towards Aotearoa is likely to bring more torrential rain to the region.

MetService said the path of Tropical Cyclone Gabrielle was uncertain at this stage, but the severe weather was likely to start on Sunday and go through until Tuesday.

Thames-Coromandel has extended its state of emergency for another seven days due to risks from the tropical cyclone.

Thames-Coromandel District Mayor Len Salt said the key to dealing with the event was being prepared and people's safety was the number one focus.

"The reality of the five weeks is that we've been dealing with a number of events, so our coastlines are vulnerable, our hills and catchment areas have taken a hammering."

If the storm tracks as MetService forecasted the region would be hit with storm surges and emergency crews were preparing for that, he said.

"I have signed an extension to the declaration of emergency this morning, which extends it for another ... seven days, that is specifically to have us deal, or to have us prepared for this event that's coming through next Monday, Tuesday."

Whangārei Mayor Vince Cocurullo expected a clearer idea of how the storm would affect the region by Friday afternoon.

"It's early days at the present moment to see where things are going.

"But the big thing for most people in Northland is we've just got to make sure we've all the basics covered.

In coastal areas of Northland, where the high tides on Sunday and Monday are about 1am and 1pm, people in known flooding areas should be prepared for a tidal surge at the same time as a storm.

MetService advised people in the likely affected areas to use the Get Ready website to see what they could do to prepare their houses ahead of the severe weather which was likely from Sunday through to Tuesday.

In Whāngarei, residents and council workers should keep drains clean. "If you've got blocked drains, that's when you get a flooding issue," Cocurullo said.

Cocurullo urged people to keep checking MetService and Northland Civil Defence's Facebook page, or phone council contact lines if they needed information.

People should be prepared for the electricity supply to fluctuate, he said.

Auckland Mayor Wayne Brown said while he hoped for the best, he too urged everyone to be prepared and clear drains, berms, and rubbish to prevent flooding and potential health risks.

Brown said many communities were already in challenging situations due to the previous flood and the council was prioritising those in need and at greatest risk.

Auckland Deputy Mayor Desley Simpson told Midday Report the council had a plan but Aucklanders also needed to ensure they had a personal plan.

"If the cyclone strikes you and you think your house may not withstand that storm, please let people know where you are going."

Asked if the council was more prepared than during the previous Auckland flood, Simpson said she was looking forward rather than back.

"I will say I feel far more confident that our team is ready for what is coming this time, definitely."

Getting ready

National Emergency Management Agency's Get Ready website advises people to review insurance cover for their home and contents, which can be crucial if you suffer damage in a disaster.

Find out from your local council if your home or business is at risk from flooding and how they will alert you if you need to evacuate. Ask about:

  • Evacuation plans and local public alerting systems
  • What to do with your pets and livestock if you have to evacuate
  • How you can reduce the risk of future flooding to your home or business
  • Work out what supplies you might need and make a plan together.

Practise your emergency plan and your evacuation route to higher ground.

Prepare your property for high winds. Strong winds can lift large, heavy objects and send them crashing into homes. Anything not secured may become a projectile.

Regularly inspect and trim trees and shrubbery. Strong winds frequently break weak tree limbs and throw them at great speed. They can cause damage and injury.

Keep up to date with MetService weather forecasts.

Work out what supplies you might need and make a plan. Have materials and tools ready to repair windows, such as tarpaulins, boards and duct tape.

Identify a safe place in your home to gather during a thunderstorm. This should be a place where there are no windows, skylights, or glass doors. These could break in strong winds or hail and cause damage or injury.

Secure boats and keep off the water.

Ensure emergency supplies of food and water, an emergency kit with items such as torches and a first aid kit are available.

Know which paddocks are safe if you have livestock. To prevent risks from lightning, move livestock away from:

  • floodwaters
  • landslides
  • power lines, and
  • isolated trees.

Drenched Auckland could flood again

MetService forecaster Lewis Ferris said there had been a consistency in terms of tracking the path of the cyclone this week.

The cyclone would likely cause severe weather in the North Island, but it was not yet possible to forecast "the exact intensity of that severe weather", he said.

At this stage, it seemed that biggest impacts around the North Island would be Monday into Tuesday, he said.

"But they will start to feel some of those effects on Sunday, with rain and wind turning up around Northland, and, yes, those dangerous sea conditions will also start to present themselves with the building winds."

The rain would likely cause flooding in Auckland given how saturated the ground was already from the previous flood, Ferris said.

The system may have caused flooding even if Auckland had not had the previous deluges, he said.

"It is these lows coming down from the north that present that present the potential for really severe weather, getting onto extreme weather, where we would see sort of like a month's worth of rainfall falling in a 24-hour space."

People should be wary but not panic as there were still a few days to nail down the detail of where the rain might turn up, he said.

"Auckland if they're lucky might get a bit of sheltering from the Coromandel, but that's really bad for the Coromandel cause they also don't want any kind of heavy rain coming their way."

NIWA meteorologist Chris Brandolino agreed there was still uncertainty about exactly where would be affected and how intense it would be.

"It's the upper North Island that appears to have the most significant impacts: Northland Auckland, Coromandel, Bay of Plenty, those areas are at most risk for seeing major impacts, but still a lot uncertainty with the exact track, because where that centre goes will determine where the most serious and persistent wind [goes], particularly on shore wind and so that will inform where maybe there is the greatest coastal inundation or storm surge waves, the highest winds, the most rainfall."

They were aware of the impacts but could not yet forecast where would get the worst impacts, he said.

Brandolino said severe winds were also a concern because that could lead to significant power outages due to fallen trees.

MetService would issue severe weather watches and warnings in the coming days if they were needed, he said.

Ferris said it was possible there could be some really heavy rainfall rates across Auckland and the region as there was in the last flood.

"It is the system that brings that brings that sort of risk, we can't nail down those areas just right now, but there is that potential."