May 29, 2023

Auckland officials say Cyclone Gabrielle could be ‘another significant event’, urge public to prepare, more evacuation centres added

Watch: Auckland Emergency Management provide an update on Cyclone Gabrielle.

Forecasters are warning a looming tropical cyclone could bring more flooding to already vulnerable northern parts of New Zealand in the coming days. 

While there remains uncertainty over the exact path the cyclone is heading, experts are predicting it could directly hit Auckland, bringing the potential for more heavy rain two weeks on from the devastating floods which killed four people.

Tropical Cyclone Gabrielle, currently in the Coral Sea, is forecast to track southeast towards Aotearoa New Zealand over the next few days ending up north of the country on Sunday, MetService said

The weather forecaster said if the cyclone moves close to New Zealand it could lead to a “significant weather event”.

Aucklanders have now been urged to prepare for a potential weather event, which is expected to hit on Sunday evening and worsen on Monday and Tuesday.

Auckland Emergency Management (AEM) has now shifted its focus to Cyclone Gabrielle and best preparing the region for any potential impacts caused by the new weather system. 

Current information from MetService advises the first effects from the cyclone will likely be felt  on Sunday night, with the most severe impacts expected on Monday and Tuesday.

AEM is planning an increased number of evacuation centres across the region which will be published on their website in the coming days. 

The council and the defence force are clearing items off curbsides and urge Aucklanders to, if possible, not put items out on the curb or take items to the transfer station. 

The Healthy Waters team are also preparing the stormwater network for more rain.

“Our key message for our communities is to use the next few days to get ready for what could be another significant event for our region. We ask that people pitch in and do what they can now to ensure they are best prepared to respond as needed to what may come,” AEM duty controller Rachel Kelleher said during a press conference on Thursday.

Keheller said the current weather system is predicted to bring heavy wind, which the flooding two weeks ago did not have. This can cause slips, fallen trees, power outages and coastal erosion.

“Please take the time that we have now to pitch in and prepare yourself and your family for the impacts of what could be more severe weather,” Kelleher reiterated. 

Keheller advises people to check the Get Ready website for information on how to prepare for an emergency.

AEM’s tips to prepare include packing a bag with essential items, stocking up on emergency supplies, clearing debris and leaves from drains and gutters to prevent surface flooding, and securing items like wheelie bins and trampolines.

You can also read more on how to prepare for Cyclone Gabrielle here.

Gisborne District Council is also urging people in isolated areas to stock up on any food and medical supplies they need as Cyclone Gabrielle approaches.

“The MetService have advised us this morning there is high confidence of heavy rain starting around Sunday evening for Gisborne and north of Gisborne with a predicted forecast of 100mm of rain for the district,” Tairāwhiti Civil Defence Group Controller Ben Green said in a statement.

“Cyclones can change track and it isn’t yet clear how much rain will arrive and where it will fall.

“However, with our region still very fragile following ex-tropical Cyclone Hale last month, our key focus is our community in isolated areas who are at high risk and vulnerable to being cut off.”

Green said there are also concerns for the council’s roading contractors who have been working 70-hour weeks to clean up after ex-tropical Cyclone Hale last month.

“We need to be aware of the health and safety of our contractors who have been pushing themselves to restore access across our region. There is still much work to be done on our roading network and we ask people to please be patient and drive with care,” Green said.

Weather forecasters’ predictions

MetService meteorologist Lewis Ferris told Ryan Bridge on AM the weather system has been tracking  “strangely consistent” across different weather models. 

“That chance of wind and rain turning up for the northern part of the North Island on Sunday are looking very likely at this point, and getting into the very extreme weather on Monday does look likely but we can’t be so sure just yet,” Ferris said.

He said extreme weather brings huge amounts of rain, flooding, possible power outages and really dangerous coastal conditions in the eastern part of the North Island.

WeatherWatch said in a statement while no official warnings are yet locked in this far in advance, the data this morning means the likelihood of severe weather across much of the North Island looks highly likely.

“If this current modelling comes true, this will likely be the most serious storm to impact New Zealand this century – especially with Auckland being in the mix for a potential direct hit.”

The weather forecaster said the upper South Island also has a chance of heavy rain and gales around Kaikōura.

“Just as Gabrielle reaches northern NZ it’s expected to encounter higher air pressure to our east – this acts like an invisible brick wall in the sky and that is expected to then curve the cyclone due-south and directly into the upper North Island,” WeatherWatch’s head forecaster Philip Duncan said.

“This is an extremely concerning set-up and all North Islanders – and some in the South Island – need to be well aware of this storm’s path and potential severe weather.”

Ferris said it’s “very, very poor timing” for the system to come as the northern regions, including Northland, Auckland and Waikato, are vulnerable after recent flooding.

It has been almost two weeks after part of the North Island was battered with deadly torrential rain and heavy flooding. Auckland and the Thames-Coromandel District are both still in states of emergency.    

WeatherWatch’s predicted timeline for Cyclone Gabrielle:

  • Sunday – Easterlies ramp up with gales developing from Auckland northwards. Some rain developing.
  • Monday – The centre of the cyclone moves in to northern NZ late in the day and overnight. Peak damaging winds and heaviest rain expected across Monday and into Tuesday.
  • Tuesday – The cyclone moves down the North Island
  • Wednesday – Conditions slowly easing across NZ but gales and some rain still lingering.
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