Multiple severe weather warnings are in place as Cyclone Gabrielle moved towards New Zealand’s North Island on February 12, the Meteorological Service of New Zealand (MetService) said.
On Saturday, Gabrielle transitioned to a post-tropical cyclone meaning it has lost its tropical system characteristics, however the latest forecasts from New Zealand’s MetService warn the storm still poses a “very high risk of extreme, impactful and unprecedented weather over many regions of the North Island from Sunday to Tuesday.”
“We are looking down the barrel of a very severe and potentially devastating weather event,” said Rachel Kelleher, the Deputy Controller of Auckland Emergency Management.
Satelitte imagery released by MetService shows the system approaching Cape Reinga on Sunday morning, where wind gusts of over 140km/h were recorded.
On Sunday night Northpower issued a statement that 17,500 households are currently without power across Northland.
They said winds from Cyclone Gabrielle had caused “major damage” to their network.
A spokesperson said the strong gales have made repairing damaged infrastructure difficult and believe people could be without power for several days.
“Until the wind abates, we will be unable to work to repair the damage and anticipate that affected customers could be without power for several days. The situation may be complicated by being unable to access areas,” a spokesperson said.
Despite authorities reassuring people supermarkets will stay open and avoid panic-buying, aisles in supermarkets across Auckland were emptied out.
Radio New Zealand reports that schools across Auckland will close from Monday as residents brace for the arrival of ex-Teopical Cyclone Gabrielle.
Over 36 schools and universities will shut their doors despite no formal order from the Ministry of Education, RNZ said, while the InterCity bus network will also reduce its services.
Meanwhile, Air New Zealand said it was canceling multiple long-haul international fights on Monday, as well as Tasman and Pacific Island flights, and domestic services in and out of Auckland.
In a press conference with local media on Sunday, New Zealand’s Prime Minister Chris Hipkins once again called on residents across Auckland to minimize non-essential travel, urging those who could work from home to do so.
“We do expect severe weather is on the way so please make sure you’re prepared, make sure you have your preparations in place, if you have to stay put for a period of time or if you have to evacuate,” Hipkins told reporters.
Northland declared a state of emergency on Sunday for an initial period of seven days as part of the region’s response to ex-Tropical Cyclone Gabrielle, according to a notice from local authorities.
Northland has experienced just six state of emergency warnings in the last 50 years, the statement added.
Auckland Emergency Management warned the city was likely to be hit by strong winds on Sunday night, with gusts of up to 140 kph (90 mph) or higher from Monday.
NZ Met Service Update 10pm Sunday 12 February
Severe Weather Warning Update
(10pm Sunday 12th Feb)
Cyclone Gabrielle continues to bring severe weather to Aotearoa New Zealand.
The far north will experience some of the heaviest and windiest weather. Red Warnings have been issued for Northland, Auckland, Coromandel and the northern parts of Tairāwhiti Gisborne for heavy rain.
Red Warnings for strong winds have also been issued for Northland, Auckland and the Coromandel.
Heavy rain warnings have also been issued for Waikato and the east coast of the North Island as well as the east of Marlborough. Strong wind warnings extend across the entirety of the North Island and extend onto the South Island for Tuesday.
For the full details of the watches and warnings as well as the latest forecasts head to www.metservice.com.