13 Feb 2023

Cyclone Gabrielle: 'People do need to be bunkering down' - Meteorologist warns against complacency

9:24 am on 13 February 2023
Debris left by the high tide rising above the shoreline in Tairua on 12 February, 2023, as sea surges from Cyclone Gabrielle begin to be seen.

Debris left by the high tide rising above the shoreline in Tairua as sea surges from Cyclone Gabrielle begin to be seen. Photo: RNZ / Leonard Powell

The worst of Cyclone Gabrielle is yet to come, a forecaster has warned, with high winds and and significant amounts of rain expected across much of the North Island today.

MetService meteorologist Lewis Ferris told Morning Report the combination of wind and rain would likely bring more widespread power outages and see trees downed.

"Auckland so far hasn't had too much in the way of heavy rain but today is the day for them, so if yesterday was bad, today is going to be even worse: people do need to be bunkering down, weathering the storm."

Winds that were already very strong throughout Sunday would pick up further in some areas today, he said, and the rain would also intensify.

Whitianga is forecast to be hit with 211 millimetres of rain, followed by Gisborne with about 140mm.

There was also potential for the heavy rain to "loosen things" in Auckland, which was hit by severe flooding in late January, he said.

"Auckland was just recently affected by floods but there wasn't really the wind element ... we're going to see some really heavy rain which, of course is going to loosen things."

The storm's unusual "quite south-easterly" wind direction could also cause problems in the city, Ferris said.

"Trees that maybe have stood the test of time may not be so lucky this time around."

The wind speeds of up to 160km/h seen on Sunday in some places were expected to become more widespread today - even over land areas, Ferris said.

"We're going to see very strong winds from Gisborne all the way to Northland ... so some of those coastal communities will see some really strong gusts and huge waves as well, overnight."

Despite no longer being a tropical cyclone, Ferris said Gabrielle had intensified as it moved over colder waters and got "picked up by an upper jet" which was moving it around and had changed its nature.

"It is still a really intense cyclonic beast, but it is no longer driven by those tropical parts, it's now driven by more mid-latitude systems."

It remained to be seen whether the cyclone would bring the record low pressure that had been forecast, he said.

"That will be something that will come out in the wash in the next couple of days."

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