May 29, 2023

Waiting for Gabrielle

Waiting for Gabrielle

Aucklanders wait for the skies to open in a city that hasn’t felt this ghostly since lockdown, writes Matthew Scott

There’s a pregnant pause over the city as central Auckland waits to be hit by Cyclone Gabrielle.

With many working from home as high winds begin to batter the city, downtown hasn’t felt this ghostly since lockdown. 

For those walking the streets or serving the last few coffees of the day, there’s a slight static charge of electricity in the embattled air – the heavens are set to open at some point this afternoon, and in the words of the city’s Mayor Wayne Brown, it will be a difficult next 24 hours for the city.


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At a briefing this afternoon, Brown called on Auckland to remain calm and took two questions from media before heading off to a meeting of drainage engineers.

Auckland has already been hit by heavy winds, with 12000 homes in the area without power.

Vector’s Peter Ryan said it was difficult to say when people could expect the lights to come back on, especially in rural areas, but said his teams would be in touch.

There have been just under 200 incident calls from the severe weather across the upper North Island in the past day, 91 of them in Auckland.

Most of these related to wind damage like roofs blowing off or trees downed, but calls related to surface flooding are on the rise.

And they may soon be even more frequent, as heavy rainfall is expected to arrive in Auckland sometime in the early evening.

MetService meteorologist Georgina Griffiths gave an update on the state of Gabrielle.

“She looks quite beautiful on the satellite pictures, but she packs a punch,” she said.

Griffiths said Auckland could expect the heavy rain to occur mostly between 3pm Monday and 3am Tuesday, but strong winds would likely continue for Auckland until midnight tomorrow.

Areas like Aotea Great Barrier Island are already feeling those winds, with 130km/hr gusts recorded overnight.

In downtown Auckland, council staff and volunteers are busily preparing a civil defence centre in Freyberg Place – one of 27 across the city.

Around the corner on Fort Street, a sports bar is pumping, with the Eagles versus Chiefs Super Bowl game unable to drown out the entwined gaggle of dozens of exalted American accents.

But once the party clears, it seems these streets will empty in anticipation of another long night of watching the waters rise – much too soon after the last time.

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