December 10, 2023

‘Easing trend’: Reprieve on way for East Coast but still will be ‘damp’ as Gisborne breaks its record for wettest June

Watch: The wild weather on the east coast of the North Island is taking its toll on locals suffering from "rain anxiety".

More rain is on the way for an already soaked east coast of the North Island, with fears of more slips and flooding. 

But it’s not expected to be as bad as what’s already been seen for east coast residents as the rain moves south on Sunday. 

Gisborne remains under a state of emergency with a red heavy rain warning set to ease on Sunday morning. 

It is the third state of emergency the region has had this year and the fifth in less than two years.

Extra staff from the police, St John, Fire and Emergency New Zealand, the Ministry for Primary Industries and Te Whatu Ora have been sent to Tairāwhiti to help with the emergency response.

MetService said a front is expected to move east onto the South Island on Sunday afternoon bringing heavy rain to the west coast and Tasman late on Sunday and during Monday.

The forecaster said as of 8pm on Saturday, Gisborne Airport had broken its record for the wettest June, with 329.1mm of rain. 

“There’s still six days left in June, so this new record will likely get higher still,” MetService said. 

NIWA said there is more rain forecast in the areas that don’t need it. 

“Given the wet ground & additional rain, landslips & flooding are possible. Particularly where the greatest rainfall occurs,” NIWA said. 

For any Kiwis looking for dry weather on Sunday, NIWA said the best odds are for the South Island, especially the eastern parts.

MetService meteorologist Alwyn Bakker told Newshub Gisborne will see an easing trend of weather on Sunday. 

Gisborne will see rain on Sunday morning before easing in the afternoon, Bakker said.

“It will still be damp but nowhere near as bad as it has been. Hawke’s Bay similar kind of deal,” Bakker said. 

“So there’ll be a little bit of rain about and it’ll ease off to a few showers in the evening. So general story, still damp, not as bad as it has been.” 

Looking ahead to Monday and Tuesday, Bakker said it’s a similar story but it will still be “damp” but not as bad as it has been.  

“It’s not going to be lots and lots just kind of a bit,” he said. “It won’t be making things very pleasant.”

Weather warnings and watches

After several days of several weather warnings and watches around the country, just three remain on Sunday morning. 

A red heavy rain warning remains in place for Tairawhiti, Gisborne until 6am Sunday, with significant heavy rain expected to continue on Saturday evening and overnight. 

MetService said while the expected rainfall accumulations in Gisborne don’t meet official short-term warning criteria, a red warning is being maintained because significant impacts such as slips, damage to roads, falling trees and damage to infrastructure such as powerlines could still occur. 

“This rain is expected to cause dangerous river conditions and significant flooding. Slips and floodwaters are likely to disrupt travel, making some roads impassable and possibly isolating communities,” MetService warned. 

Heavy rain is also expected to lash the ranges of Tasman west of Motueka with an orange heavy rain warning in place until 1am on Sunday. 

“Heavy rain may cause streams and rivers to rise rapidly. Surface flooding and slips are also possible and driving conditions may be hazardous,” MetService said. 

Heavy rain will also hit Westland, with a watch in place from 3pm on Sunday until midnight on Monday. 

MetService said there will be periods of heavy rain, which could approach warning criteria. 

“Rain anxiety” 

The heavy rain, which has lashed the east coast is worrying many residents, many of whom are now suffering from “rain anxiety”. 

Civil Defence said 48 people had evacuated to welfare centres set up across the region, while others went to stay with friends and whānau.

Hundreds of people were without power on Saturday and there were reports of a significant amount of stormwater flooding on private property.

Gisborne residents were told to reduce water use as the wastewater system is at capacity for the city.

Tairāwhiti Civil Defence controller David Wilson said in a statement on Saturday the region’s pipes are overwhelmed with the volume of water and this has coincided with high tide.

“To avoid overflow of sewage into private properties please do not flush toilets or do any loads of washing until later today.”

There is major travel disruption to the region with 73 local roads closed, Civil Defence said.

SH2 north is closed between Whatatutu Rd and Matawai and will remain shut on Saturday, Sunday and possibly Monday, Civil Defence confirmed. When the road reopens, it will be under a convoy system. SH35 Okitu to Ruatoria is also closed due to flooding.

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