Flooding near Waimate North Road near Kerikeri, ahead of Cyclone Cook, on Thursday, April 13, 2017. Photo: BAYLEY MOOR/FAIRFAX NZ . Photo: BAYLEY MOOREx-tropical cyclone Cook is bearing down on New Zealand and is set to be the worst storm system in nearly 50 years.
Heavy rain and high winds forecast for a big swath of the country were set to cause big disruption on the last day before the Easter break, with the NZ Transport Agency (NZTA) warning it may have to close the Auckland harbour bridge if wind speeds get high on Thursday afternoon.
Air travellers looked certain to be affected too with Air New Zealand advising customers to anticipate delays and cancellations across its network.
Both Bay of Plenty and Coromandel have declared states of emergency, ahead of Cook’s arrival.
A Thames District Council spokesperson said civil defence were currently making a decision about whether or not people in low lying areas of the Coromandel would be evacuated.
Rain overnight in most of the country ??? including heavy rain which may have caused flooding in Auckland and Northland ??? was just a taste of what’s to come later on Thursday, with Bay of Plenty and Coromandel set to be hit the hardest by downpours and severe gales.
Just before 5am, the ex-tropical cyclone was about 350km northeast of the North Island and moving south, MetService severe weather forecaster Gerard Barrow said.
It was expected to make landfall around western Bay of Plenty or Coromandel late afternoon or early evening, bringing “quite a significant amount of rain and strong winds” to northern parts of the country.
“Already ahead of the cyclone there is quite a broad rain band which is also spreading over northern New Zealand, so that’s going to help keep the rain there today,” Barrow said.
The cyclone would continue south, to lie over the lower North Island about midnight on Thursday.
“It’s going to bring quite a lot of significant weather to many parts of the country, especially rain and severe gales, especially over the North Island,” Barrow said.
“I don’t think many people are going to spared from the weather associated with this low, but the places that are going to be impacted the most will be Bay of Plenty and the Coromandel Peninsula.”
Flooding was likely in those places, including the flood-stricken Bay of Plenty town of Edgecumbe, while severe gales could cause structural damage.
Barrow himself had never forecast a storm as big as Cook, which was expected to be similar to Cyclone Giselle, which sank the Wahine in Wellington’s harbour in 1968.
“A lot of people have been comparing it with [Giselle]. This is very definitely a significant storm.
“I’ve worked here for 20 years and it’s most probably the first time that I’ve actually had to forecast for such a system which has the potential to produce such a great impact on the country.” here’s #cyclonecook above, and that other system off in the tasman. from https://t苏州夜生活/reteQi4Mjipic.twitter苏州夜网/eA2KV6unE2??? henry cooke (@henrycooke) April 12, 2017Our super high-resolution 1.5 km model shows #CycloneCook and its associated heavy rain bands as it approaches the North Island on Thursday. pic.twitter苏州夜网/AcCuuJl0OO??? NIWA Weather (@NiwaWeather) April 12, 2017