23 Feb 2023

Cyclone Gabrielle recap Thursday: New weather warnings for flood-hit regions

11:04 pm on 23 February 2023
Prime Minister Chris Hipkins flight to Wairoa had to be abandoned.

Prime Minister Chris Hipkins' flight to Wairoa had to be abandoned. Photo: RNZ/Soumya Bhamidipati

Heavy rain is on the way for cyclone-hit Hawke's Bay and Tairāwhiti and the Coromandel Peninsula, some areas have evacuated in Tairāwhiti, while Prime Minister Chris Hipkins' planned trip to Wairoa today was cancelled due to the weather.

MetService issued an Orange Warning until 10am on Saturday for the Hawke's Bay, and said people should expect 150 to 200mm of rain about the ranges and also north of Hastings - including the Esk Valley area and the Wairoa District. Rain to 75 to 100mm was expected elsewhere in the region.

The heaviest falls were likely from 3pm on Friday, with peak rates up to 30mm an hour possible.

An Orange Warning was also issued for Gisborne, until 2am Saturday, with 80 to 130mm of rain forecast, with the heaviest periods possibly reaching up to 25mm an hour, especially in thunderstorms.

And Coromandel Peninsula's Orange Warning was for the period until 4am on Friday, with 100 to 140mm of rain forecast, at rates of up to 40mm an hour in thunderstorms with possible downpours.

A severe thunderstorm watch was issued by MetService on Thursday nighth for Auckland, Great Barrier Island, Coromandel Peninsula, until Friday 10pm.

"There is a moderate risk of localised severe thunderstorms producing downpours of 25 to 40 mm/h from just before dawn through to Friday night," MetService said. "Rainfall of this intensity can cause surface and/or flash flooding, especially about low-lying areas such as streams, rivers or narrow valleys, and may also lead to slips."

Emergency repairs were underway on damaged stopbanks in Hawke's Bay, ahead of the deluge.

Each stopbank breach would be under observation overnight.

Meanwhile, other areas also under a heavy rain watch and possible thunderstorm watch include Auckland (from 5am Friday till 1am Saturday) Waikato (from 9am on Friday until 6am Saturday) and Wairarapa (from 9am to 9pm Saturday).

Evacuation in Mangahauini River catchment and Tokomaru Bay township

A precautionary evacuation was underway for 64 homes in the Mangahauini River catchment and Tokomaru Bay township on Thursday evening.

Gisborne Civil Defence said the evacuees in Tokomaru Bay were safe and secure.

As a precaution, 64 households were today evacuated in the seaside town, due to the risk posed by a debris blockage that had created a dam on the Mangahauini River.

Civil Defence Controller Ben Green said that although the evacuation was disruptive, the evacuees were happy to be safe.

"They've had a pre-discussion on this themselves, they're aware of what the risk is - communities - they've taken these steps to protect their safety and they seem to be very organised in that regard, so we're pretty comfortable."

Green said the rain was not particularly heavy in the area just yet, late on Thursday evening, but even moderate rainfall could dislodge the dam.

Weather disrupts PM's flight to see the damage

Hipkins' flight to Wairoa to witness the damage caused by Cyclone Gabrielle lasted 10 minutes on Thursday before that plan had to be abandoned.

Low cloud along the east coast meant the NH90 he was travelling in had to be redirected to the Napier airport shortly after takeoff from the Hawke's Bay Showgrounds.

Hipkins was afforded a brief look over Hawke's Bay - the chopper travelled up Napier's marine parade where sodden suburbs were in full view.

See how today's news unfolded with RNZ's live blog:

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