New Zealanders brace for 2nd major storm in just over a week

New Zealand was bracing on Thursday for a storm that meteorologists warned could be the worst for nearly 50 years, with extreme weather alerts across the entire North Island.

The New Zealand Herald described the storm as the worst seen in New Zealand "in generations" and that authorities were considering closing the Auckland Harbour Bridge.

Heavy rain and severe gales have begun to hit the coast between Tauranga and Whakatane, with the storm making landfall after 6pm (local time) on Thursday.

The tropical depression, the tail-end of ex-Cyclone Cook which hit New Caledonia this week, has already generated offshore winds of more than 170 kmh.

Evacuations are underway and states of emergency have been declared for two areas as New Zealand braces for its worst storm in 50 years.

The storm was expected to move south overnight and reach the capital, Wellington, early on Friday, causing more problems along the way but also losing some of its punch.

Kiwifruit harvesting had been halted in areas around the country following ex-Cyclone Debbie last week and before Cyclone Cook.

"Following severe flooding earlier in the week beginning April 10 2017, further very heavy rain and high winds are forecast until Saturday April 15 2017 for much of New Zealand".

Civil defense authorities advised people in low-lying areas on the North Island's Coromandel Peninsula to evacuate to higher ground.

A landslide blocks a road in the North Island town of Omokoroa, New Zealand.

Rain in Dunedin will be set in with the chance of some flooding - but at this stage we're optimistic it won't be at the extreme end, but be vigilant around streams and watch for surface flooding on roads. National airline Air New Zealand warned of "significant disruption" from the weather with many flights likely to be delayed or cancelled.

MetService predicted winds from the storm could gust to 150 kilometers (93 miles) per hour and waves rise to over 5 meters (16 feet).

Chief executive of industry body, New Zealand Kiwifruit Growers Inc (NZKGI) Nikki Johnson, said the group would be monitoring the situation and would assess damages after the weather had cleared.

Conditions are expected to be so hazardous, the MetService is advising people to seriously consider altering Easter travel plans and not to "take any chances".

  • Leroy Wright