'Old windbag' Lusi loosens grip

Windsurfers headed to Takapuna Beach on Auckland's North Shore yesterday to take advantage of Lusi's strong winds. Photo: NZ Herald
Windsurfers headed to Takapuna Beach on Auckland's North Shore yesterday to take advantage of Lusi's strong winds. Photo: NZ Herald
Former cyclone Lusi proved to be more of a windbag than a raging beast - to the delight of beach-bound thrillseekers.

As the broad storm tracked south from the Far North, power was to cut to thousands of homes, roads were flooded by large coastal swells and trees toppled by the high winds.

But the anticipated widespread damage did not eventuate as Lusi was downgraded to a deep depression by landfall on Friday night.

Lusi is expected to bring her damp gustiness to the lower North Island and upper South Island today.

Last night, Auckland Council identified 50 properties as potentially needing evacuation due to the large sea swell.

Auckland Council Civil Defence controller Clive Manley said high tides on the east coast might cause coastal erosion due to the swell.

The heavy seas and strong northeasterly conditions drew hundreds to east coast beaches including Takapuna on Auckland's North Shore.

Surfers, windsurfers, kitesurfers, kayakers, boogie boarders and long boarders navigated 3m swells, oblivious to official warnings to keep clear of the beaches.

Earlier in the afternoon, a sea and air search was mounted after a boy was reported missing in the water at Takapuna.

Police later said the swimmer made it out of the water safely and went home, unaware he was the focus of a rescue operation.

Weather forecasters say the worst of former tropical cyclone Lusi is over for those living in northern regions, though it is predicted to pack a nasty parting punch as it tracks south today.

Severe weather warnings are in place for southern parts of the North Island and the top of the South Island but conditions are expected to improve during the day in Auckland and northern areas, according to the MetService.

Meteorologist John Law said Wellington and Wairarapa could expect severe northwesterly gales of up to 130km/h while Nelson and Marlborough and parts of Canterbury and Otago would experience heavy bursts of rain.

Law said it was "an improving story" for Auckland as rainy conditions were expected to clear throughout the day and the weather was expected to improve everywhere tomorrow.

Yesterday, the Fire Service responded to approximately 160 incidents in the northern region, mostly for trees on powerlines.

Firefighters also secured a roof in Orewa that was being lifted by strong winds.

Law said yesterday's storm brought winds as high as 120km/h in the Hauraki Gulf.

The strongest gust was 139km/h recorded at Cape Reinga in the Far North.

While the rain was patchy, especially throughout Auckland, parts of the North Island were saturated.

Paeroa recorded 200mm in 24 hours.

The Auckland Harbourmaster said three boats had to be secured after they broke from their moorings in the heavy conditions.

A 7m swell was recorded at Marsden Pt in Northland and a ship was also redirected to shelter off the Coromandel Peninsula.

Meteorologist Dan Corbett said: "The old windbag called Lusi will finally loosen her grip on parts of the country when she slides east of the South Island during the early hours of Sunday."

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