Heavy rain and wind warnings blanket entire North Island. They also extend to the top of the South Island as Cyclone Gabrielle bears down on the country. Aucklanders are being urged to stay home and at least 25,000 households are without power, writes Anna Rawhiti-Connell in this excerpt from The Bulletin, The Spinoff’s morning news round-up. To receive The Bulletin in full each weekday, sign up here.
What had been experienced so far as no more than an “entrée”
The entire North Island, top of the South Island and parts of the West Coast are now under heavy rain and/or wind warnings or watches. MetService upgraded 24 warnings and watches at 5am this morning that extend from Cape Reinga down to Marlborough, Nelson, Buller and the West Coast north of Fox Glacier. It’s really important to keep in mind that while parts of the upper North Island have been feeling the effects of Cyclone Gabrielle for a day or so, the worst is yet to come. MetService’s Georgina Griffith described what had been experienced so far as no more than an “entrée”. “Don’t be fooled if you’re not affected till Tuesday,” she said.
Sleepless night in Northland and Coromandel
In Northland, at least 8,000 households are without power. Repairs to the network are being hampered by unsafe conditions and residents are being told to expect to be without power for days. All schools in Northland had been closed following the declaration of a state of emergency. RNZ’s Morning Report reported this morning that parts of Northland have had 200mm of rain in the past 24 hours causing surface flooding. High tide is just before 1pm in Whangarei and Civil Defence is warning that it could bring more flooding. Thames Coromandel Civil Defence controller Garry Towler said the region received a battering overnight but has so far pulled through. Nearly 4000 residents have experienced power outages. Towler said the area can expect another 400mm of rain today.
Aucklanders urged to stay home
Aucklanders are being urged to stay home today and tomorrow. New Zealand Principal’s Federation president Leanne Otene told the AM Show that the majority of schools in Auckland had closed. After a decision to close the Auckland Harbour bridge yesterday, the bridge is now open with speed restrictions and lane closures. Auckland Transport says it is likely to open and close throughout the day “depending on the unpredictable approach of Cyclone Gabrielle”. Buses are still operating but expect disruption. KiwiRail made the proactive decision to close its network across the top half of the North Island, including Auckland commuter lines, until at least 3pm today. At 7pm last night, vector advised around 15,000 households were without power in Auckland.
Is our emergency management system fit for purpose?
While the current focus is on the next few days, Newsroom’s Sam Sachdeva has turned his eye to the questions that will be asked in the wake of Cyclone Gabrielle and the flooding in Auckland just over two weeks ago. Sachdeva says “politicians and officials alike must have some serious conversations about whether our emergency management system is fit for purpose.” A review after the Christchurch earthquake in 2011 highlighted the “dysfunctionally divided” nature of local structures, as well as a fragmentation of decision-making between regional authorities, government departments and the national crisis management centre. Some people were asking why a state of emergency hadn’t been declared earlier in Northland yesterday. At one point yesterday afternoon, with a list of evacuation centres published for Auckland and Coromandel, Northland Civil Defence were advising people they couldn’t tell them were evacuation centres would be, while the Whangarei District Council had published names of marae people could go to, and where a likely evacuation centre would be.