29 Jan 2011

Cyclone Wilma leaves trail of destruction

11:12 pm on 29 January 2011

Cyclone Wilma is moving away from New Zealand, bringing heavy rain to the Chatham Islands, and leaving flooded and collapsed homes and communities isolated by closed roads in its wake.

Meanwhile, more foul weather is poised to sweep over the Tasman Sea from Sunday, possibly ushering in severe northwest gales for much of the South Island and the lower North Island.

MetService says strong winds are expected in exposed inland parts of Southland, Otago and Canterbury from late Sunday afternoon, reaching Marlborough and Wellington overnight.

Severe northwest gales are likely about Wairarapa and the Tararua District during Monday morning and early afternoon.

Torrential rain is also set to hit the West Coast of the South Island on Sunday.

MetService has issued a severe weather warning for Fiordland and Westland, with up to 150mm of rain expected to fall in an 18 hour period from Sunday afternoon.

People in those areas are warned to watch out for rapidly rising streams and rivers and hazardous driving conditions.

Rain and wind caused havoc in north

The departing cyclone brought heavy rain and galeforce winds which caused the most problems in Northland, Auckland, Coromandel and Bay of Plenty.

MetService says Cyclone Wilma dumped up to 260mm of rain in the Bay of Islands on Friday night.

Other areas to record more than 200mm in 24 hours include Kaikohe and Kerikeri, Whangarei Airport and Whitianga in Coromandel.

Power was cut to thousands of homes, and Civil Defence welfare centres were set up in Whakatane and Northland.

Bay of Plenty rivers in flood

Whakatane River levels were expected to peak at 10pm on Saturday, reaching a one in 30-year event level, which is similar to the level it reached on Monday after last weekend's storm.

The Waimana River, which runs into the Whakatane River, was expected to peak at its highest level in 50 years.

Swollen rivers have also brought logs and debris down into the region's coastal waters including Tauranga Harbour, the Whakatane River mouth and Ohiwa Harbour.

Road conditions are treacherous and police were advising against any travel to and from Whakatane.

The power is back on in the city after it was cut on Saturday morning because of the weather.

However, the Eastern Bay of Plenty Civil Defence is urging people to restrict their water use in places where power was out, including Taneatua, Waimana and Matata.

Roads closed

Civil Defence says the township of Taneatua and several others have been left isolated due to flooding in the eastern Bay of Plenty.

The Taneatua road is closed and State Highway 2 in the Pekatahi Bridge area is also closed, in the wake of the cyclone.

The remote townships of Waimana and Ruatoki Valley are cut off and will remain isolated while river levels are high.

State Highway 35 east of Opotiki is also closed because of high seas overtopping the road at Hawai, Te Kaha and Waihau Bay.

Civil Defence says the Opotiki wharf has been sandbagged as a precaution but a former sewage problem is now resolved.

In other developments, power has been restored in the district apart from Matata where people are asked to conserve water to allow reservoirs to refill.

Two welfare centres set up in Whakatane remain open but one in Matata has now closed

Edgecumbe residents are also being asked to conserve water because of infiltration from wastewater.

Civil Defence says the Omeheu Canal is overtopping, causing water to flow across farmland and the Otakiri road south of Edgecumbe.

Flooding continues in Coromandel

The Thames Coromandel District Council says the high tide at 4pm on Saturday did not worsen flooding on the peninsula, and roads there are slowly reopening.

There are slips and flooding throughout the Coromandel Peninsula. Several roads are cloes including State Highway 25 between Coromandel and Whangapoua.

Residents have been evacuated from many small communities, including Tairua on the east coast and Ruamahanga Bay on the west.

At Waihi Beach, eight units at the Beachhaven motel and holiday park were evacuated.

MetService says many areas are heading towards record-breaking rainfall levels for January.

Tauranga and Rotorua

Police say there has been widespread flooding in Tauranga resulting in contamination of estuaries and waterways.

The Mount is closed to the public for several days after rain on Friday night caused mudslides and landslips.

Tauranga City Council says it will be out of bounds until at least Wednesday.

Two water processing plants are also closed and the city is currently relying on reservoir supplies.

A break in a major water main is putting additional strain on supplies and residents have been asked to conserve water.

Police in Rotorua were telling people to stay at home on Saturday, with several main roads blocked around the city.

A number of houses have been flooded.