As Cyclone Gabrielle approaches the coast of the nation, residents of Auckland, the largest city in New Zealand, and the surrounding area are being warned to prepare for more intense rain, flooding, and gale-force winds. Some properties are also being evacuated.
Currently 200 kilometers (125 miles) northeast of Auckland, Gabrielle is expected to travel in close proximity to the east coast over the next 24 hours.
Sadly, we anticipate that Cyclone Gabrielle’s effects will worsen before they improve, according to Rachel Kelleher, Deputy Controller of Auckland Emergency Management, on Monday.
“It’s not the time to be complacent,” she added.
The cyclone is the second significant weather event to hit Auckland and the upper North Island in just a few weeks. Last month Auckland and surrounding areas were hit by record rainfall that sparked floods and killed four people.
New Zealand Prime Minister Chris Hipkins on Monday announced a NZ$11.5 million ($7.25 million) package to support community groups such as food banks and to groups impacted by the floods.
On Monday, many schools and local government facilities across Auckland and the upper North Island were closed and people were being asked not to travel if possible.
States of emergency are in place in Auckland and at least six other regions. Around 50 apartments in Auckland have been evacuated because of fears a century-old steel framed tower could collapse.
Further evacuations have been ordered at beachside communities on the east coast ahead of an expected storm surge in the early hours of Tuesday morning.
Electricity is out for 46,000 homes, cell service is patchy in some areas and trees have come down and roofs lifted off.
Public transport has been disrupted with ferries, buses and trains either suspended or operating on a reduced schedule.
Air New Zealand has cancelled 509 flights and said flights will resume on Tuesday when the weather is expected to improve.
Police said they were trying to locate a person who was onboard a boat near Great Barrier Island this morning, after responding to reports the boat was in distress.
“The Police Maritime Unit, with assistance from Eagle, have attempted to approach the boat throughout the morning, however conditions have been challenging, and at this stage no one has been located,” the said in a statement.
Overnight, Metservice meteorologist Georgina Griffiths warned that strong gusts and rain were possible for Auckland and Great Barrier Island.
Gales are anticipated overnight in areas of Auckland that have not yet seen difficult wind conditions, she said.
Storm surge is still on its way and may reach its height in eastern Auckland at 2 a.m.
She continued by saying that some localized land slips and surface floods were predicted because Auckland was already wet.