30 Oct 2023

Power cuts as ex-cyclone Lola lashes upper North Island

5:09 pm on 30 October 2023
Flooded paddocks near Omaunu Rd in Kaeo, Far North on 30 October, 2023.

Flooded paddocks near Omaunu Rd in Kaeo, Far North. Photo: RNZ / Peter De Graaf

Crews are working to restore power to properties across Northland, and residents of Coromandel are bracing for more rain as the remnants of ex-cyclone Lola batters the regions.

Strong wind and heavy rain warnings and watches remain in place for Northland, the Coromandel Peninsula, parts of Gisborne Tai Rāwhiti and Auckland.

Fresh orange heavy rain warnings have also been issued for Bay of Plenty west of Matata and for the inland ranges of Hawke's Bay south of State Highway 5.

Air New Zealand has so far cancelled six domestic flights due to the weather and it is asking customers to keep up to date with arrival and departure information online.

Floodwaters thunder over Haruru Falls, near Paihia in the Bay of Islands on 30 October, 2023.

Waitangi River in flood at Haruru Falls. Photo: RNZ / Peter De Graaf

Power has been restored to most homes in Northland and the Far North after ex-cyclone Lola caused power cuts to thousands of properties last night.

Now just 71 properties in the Far North and 32 in Northland are waiting for the lights to come back on.

Lines company Northpower said a few outages in rural areas might not be fixed until tomorrow.

Earlier power outages were widespread, with areas of Whangārei, Ruakākā, Parua Bay and towards Hikurangi losing supply.

Strong winds had caused damage to trees and power lines, Whangārei Mayor Vince Cocurullo told Morning Report, though the rain had not been as bad as expected.

Passenger ferries between Paihia and Russell have been cancelled until further notice due to large swells and businesses in Kāeo were shut this morning as the Kāeo River threatened to flood State Highway 10.

The highway is a crucial transport link in the region, as State Highway 1, south of Kaitāia, has been closed since August due to flood damage.

The Northland Regional Council's Kāeo River webcam shows the river is running high but still a few centimetres short of flooding State Highway 10 at 8.58am on 30 October, 2023.

The Northland Regional Council's Kāeo River webcam showed the river was running high but still a few centimetres short of flooding State Highway 10 at 8.58am. Photo: Supplied / Northland Regional Council

The Kauaeranga River in Coromandel had also come close to breaking its banks but Thames-Coromandel's Civil Defence controller Garry Towler told Midday Report it had held "by the skin of its teeth".

However State Highway 25 at Manaia was closed due to surface flooding, he said, and across on the Coromandel's eastern seaboard, the road between Tairua and Hikuwai was currently only accessible to 4WD vehicles, but it would likely also close.

"That road is very marginal at the moment."

There had been one or two minor slips during the latest heavy rain, Towler said, but nothing of the magnitude the area experienced during Cyclone Gabrielle.

"We are in a bit of a lull at the moment but a huge amount of rain is still to come and that will probably give us probably 400mm for this event, which is quite concerning in terms of land instability."

He said the intensity of the weather system had come as a surprise but local residents had made "good, informed decisions and have either self-evacuated or gone somewhere safe for the duration of this storm".

Towler said the area's catchments were continuing to drain and with another king tide at 9pm and more rainfall to come, the main message to residents was to take care if they were out and about.

* If you have photos of the weather in your area, you can send them to RNZ at iwitness@radionz.co.nz

Thames-Coromandel District Council said in updates on its Facebook page that Victoria Street in Thames and Kauaeranga Valley Road were also closed due to surface flooding.

Tairua School and kindergarten are closed today, with the schools saying on social media they were concerned about the safety of staff and students when travelling.

Mercury Bay school in Whitianga said it was advised to close by Civil Defence.

Coroglen, Te Rerenga, Whenuakite and Opoutere schools were among those that decided yesterday to close today as a precaution.

The Thames-Coromandel District Council asked residents of Matatoki, Puriri and Omahu to conserve water for the next 24 to 48 hours as heavy sediment load was putting pressure on water treatment plants in the area.

A water tanker had been set up in Puriri for residents to use, it said.

All refuse and recycling centres in the district would also be closed until at least midday, with those in Tairua and Pāuanui potentially closed for longer if staff were unable to access the sites, the council said.

In Northland, pastures are flooded, power was out in milking sheds, and trees had been downed.

The region's Federated Farmers president Colin Hannah said the bad weather began on Sunday and over 115mm of rain fell overnight.

"Winds have been fairly extreme over the whole region but ... but I've had no damage on the farm, we've had a bit of surface flooding, picked up branches off the road so people can get through but nothing more than that at this stage."

Hannah said some farms were without power - which would delay some milkings but most farmers had generators or could walk their herds to neighbouring farms.

Tolaga Bay residents hunkering down

The orange heavy rain warning covers Ūawa Tolaga Bay. The area's civil defence controller Greg Shelton told Morning Report things were beginning to "pick up" and he expected conditions there to be worst from mid-afternoon into Monday night.

"We're definitely not out of the woods," he said. His team would remain on standby until midday on Tuesday but everyone was "just hunkering down and watching" for the time being.

The forecast rain was more of a worry for the area than the wind, he said, but he acknowledged things could change fast.

"Anything from the northeast, things can change pretty quick."

He asked local residents to stock up on supplies now if they needed to, but to otherwise stay at home until the weather system had passed.

"Our river levels are pretty kind at the moment; we've gone through a wet winter and a dry August ... and at the end of the day a lot of people welcome this type of rain, provided we don't get too much, to keep the growth going and top up the water tanks."

More rain, thunderstorms expected

The tail of ex-Tropical Cyclone Lola, which caused extensive damage as it smashed through parts of Vanuatu earlier this week, has merged with another trough as it crosses the upper North Island.

MetService meteorologist Mmathapelo Makgabutlane told Midday Report while a lot of rain had fallen already, it was expected to persist for "the bulk of the day", with much of it concentrated in Tai Rāwhiti/Gisborne.

The Coromandel should also expect another 100-120mm of rain on top of what had already fallen, she said.

"Out in the Pinnacles they've already had around 200mm, so having 100 to 120mm of rain on top of that is still something quite notable."

Flooding following heavy rain in Thames on 30 October, 2023.

Flooded fields are seen following heavy rain in Thames. Photo: Monika Lange, via Facebook

Some thunderstorm activity was also possible, and that tended to mean "more intense bursts of rain in a short space of time", she added.

Parts of Northland had been most affected by the wind the weather system had brought, she said, with gusts of up to 141km/h in very exposed places.

Makgabutlane earlier told Morning Report the weather was expected to ease on Tuesday.

"Midweek and into the second half of the week we are expecting another system to come in from the west so definitely a good week to keep an eye on the latest watches and warnings on metservice.com."

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