November 29, 2023

Heavy rain, strong winds batter country and disrupt travel, several warnings issued

Related video: Prime Minister Chris Hipkins got a first-hand look at the devastation caused by storms and a cyclone in Coromandel.

Wet weather and strong winds are hitting the North and South Islands, disrupting travel on Friday.

Metservice has issued several severe weather warnings including an orange heavy rain warning for the Bay of Plenty and Rotorua.

The warning is in place from Friday afternoon through until just before midday on Saturday. The forecaster warns up to 80 to 100mm of rain is likely with the worst weather expected to hit overnight.

An orange heavy rain warning is also in place for Mount Taranaki from 9am on Friday until early on Saturday morning, as well as for the Tararua Ranges for a similar period.

Auckland can also expect rain on Friday – but there are no warnings currently in place. MetService said heavy showers are possible for the city this afternoon and evening. 

The South Island also has several orange heavy rain warnings in place, including for Westland until 8pm tonight. Up to 150mm of rain is expected in the ranges with as much as 200mm possible near the glaciers.

The Canterbury lakes and rivers near Arthurs Pass are also under a heavy rain warning for the same period, along with Fiordland until noon on Friday.

An orange strong wind warning is also in place for Canterbury, with MetService warning powerful gusts could damage trees, powerlines and unsecured structures. Severe north to northwest gales of up to 120 km/h are expected in exposed areas.

Meanwhile, heavy rain watches are in place for the central plateau of the North Island from Tongariro National Park to the Kaimanawa Range. Buller and the Otago lakes and rivers are also under a heavy rain watch.

A strong wind watch is in place for Wairarapa south of Masterton. 

The wild weather is already disrupting travel across the motu, with a flight being diverted from Wellington to Christchurch on Friday morning because of strong winds. Another flight from Napier to Wellington also diverted to Palmerston North and a flight was forced to return to Auckland because of the weather. 

Ferries between Days Bay and Wellington are also on a reduced timetable because of choppy waters.

In the South Island, Waka Kotahi is urging drivers to take care on the newly reopened SH7 which links the West Coast to Canterbury. The highway was briefly closed earlier in the day after a slip between Reefton and Springs Junction, the Rahu Saddle.

The road is now open but is a single lane and delays are likely to be exacerbated by the wet weather, Waka Kotahi said.

“Drivers should also expect surface flooding across the Canterbury high country routes and West Coast highways and roads today,” Tresca Forrester, Journey Manager for Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency said.

“Drivers heading across the alpine passes should drive with extra care, slow down and headlights on. High sided vehicle drivers of campervans and motorcycle riders  should also take extra care.”

It comes after several severe weather events caused widespread destruction. Last month Auckland was battered by severe flooding and large parts of the country are still recovering from Cyclone Gabrielle.

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