Many holiday goers from Auckland and across the entire North Island are forced to re-evaluate their travel plans this Easter weekend with Cyclone Cook gathering strength and scheduled to make a landfall somewhere between the Bay of Plenty and Coromandel Peninsula at around 6 p.m. on Thursday, April 13.
This cyclone Cook is being regarded as the worst storm New Zealand has seen in generations, according to MetService. 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".
Several local councils in the North Island had declared a state of emergency warning people to prepare for the worse.
People have been warned to be prepared for another round of deluge, flash flooding, slips and other emergencies emanating from the incoming cyclone.
Meanwhile, Auckland Council and Civil Defence Emergency Management Group are advising Aucklanders to clear gutters, check drains, keep an eye on weather forecasts and plan travel very carefully – it is going to be a very wet lead up to Easter across the Auckland region.
MetService is continuing to monitor incoming tropical rain bands and the impact of tropical cyclone Cook, making its way towards New Zealand from the Pacific.
Early in the morning, there was flooding in the low-lying areas of Thames- Coromandel region forcing Thames-Coromandel District Council to declare a state of emergency.
This was after the Bay of Plenty Civil Defence Emergency Management Group had already declared a state of emergency on Wednesday closing all 57 schools and about 80 early learning services in the region.
In Auckland, many schools and offices were closed in the afternoon to minimise possible risks when cyclone eventually hits the central business district later in the evening.
The Auckland Harbour Bridge may be closed or have restrictions put in place if the wind gets too strong.
Metservice has forecasted winds of up to 120km/h and the New Zealand Transport Agency will be monitoring conditions on the bridge.
At the time of going to press long queues of commuters were being seen in Auckland CBD with people trying to leave the city before the landfall of the cyclone.
Similarly, people living on the Coromandel Coast were being evacuated to higher ground as the cyclone threatens extensive flooding.
The Tapu River in the Coromandel Peninsula was close to breaching its banks on Thursday afternoon.
Waves of up to 5 meter on Coromandel's east coast are expected, which could cause coastal inundation, especially in low-lying areas near rivers and streams that are flood-prone at high tides when there is heavy rain.
Meanwhile, people have been advised to avoid visiting the Coromandel until at least Saturday.
Thames Valley Civil Defence had welfare teams on standby in Whitianga, Whangamata, Tairua, Pauanui, Coromandel Town and Thames, should they be needed.
Councillor John Watson, Deputy Chair of the council’s Civil Defence and Emergency Management Committee, urges Aucklanders to prepare for a wet week ahead.
“We’ve had a lot of rain already in the last four weeks, and the region is pretty water-logged. It’s a good idea, while it’s still fine, to make sure gutters and drains on your property are clear, and any blockages that you see on public land are reported to the council swiftly.
“If you’re driving this Easter weekend, check the weather forecasts regularly and, if you’re heading away when the worst of the weather is forecast to hit, perhaps think about adjusting your plans.
“Stay safe this holiday weekend Auckland,” Mr Watson said.
Water Safety New Zealand (WSNZ) has called for all Kiwis to take extra caution this Easter in the wake of severe weather warnings across the country.
“Traditionally Easter is one of the last opportunities to get out on the water before winter sets in,” says CEO Jonty Mills.
“However the unseasonal weather patterns we’re experiencing need to be taken into consideration when planning water based activities this Easter,” Mr Mills further added.
WSNZ is encouraging people to listen to local authorities and MetService before planning any activity.