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Cloud is building and skies have started to darken in northern areas of the country as ex Tropical Cyclone Lusi bears ever closer.
Residents have been warned to prepare for the worst, as forecast gales, heavy rain and coastal swells threaten to cause localised flooding, slips, road closures and power cuts.
Firefighters have already been called out to a small number of incidents in the Far North.
Downed power lines fell into a nearby paddock in Kaeo, while strong winds caused a tree to topple across a road in Parahaki, north of Whangarei, Fire Service northern communications shift commander Jaron Philips said.
Rain has begun to lash northern parts of the country, and winds are beginning to pick up.
In Auckland preparations are continuing for tomorrow's expected stormy weather.
Auckland harbourmaster Andrew Hayton said all staff would be on call over the weekend.
Boaties should check the moorings of their boats before the worst of the weather comes in, he said.
"We don't want people going out in a small dinghy at the height of the storm to check on their boats.''
Mr Hayton said he would be in regular contact with Ports of Auckland officials to manage the situation.
"We've looked at some of the big ships and decided we'd keep them out at sea.
"The winds are just a bit too strong to manoeuvre some of these vessels safely in port,'' he said.
No cruise ships were due to dock in Auckland until Monday.
It was up to the individual ship master to decide whether they would sail through any rough conditions, Mr Hayton said.
A Fullers Ferry spokeswoman advised passengers to check the organisation's website and Facebook page for updates.
Staff were monitoring the weather closely, and cancellations and postponements would be made if appropriate, she said.
All passengers who had prebooked their tickets were entitled to a refund if shippings changed due to the weather, she said.
Cyclone expected tonight
The deadly cyclone is expected to hit northern New Zealand tonight, with the brunt of the storm to be felt across the North Island tomorrow as it tracks southwest just off the coast of the country, before hitting the South Island on Sunday.
Severe weather warnings have been issued for Northland, Auckland, Coromandel Peninsula, Bay of Plenty, Gisborne, Nelson and Marlborough.
Northland could expect 80mm-100mm of rain by tomorrow afternoon, MetService said.
The rain should spread quickly southwards, totalling more than 100mm in Coromandel, Bay of Plenty and Gisborne by Sunday morning.
Easterly gales will accompany the heavy rain, with gusts of 120km/h in Northland, Auckland and Coromandel Peninsula, and 130km/h west of the Kaimai Range.
An extra 26 firefighters and five fire engines have already been sent to Kerikeri as an emergency back-up to support local crews in the north in advance of the storm hitting.
The MetService watch also covered the possibility of severe easterly gales about the Central Plateau and Nelson tomorrow.
Also in the upper South Island, Marlborough and Nelson look set to receive the most intense rainfall, with up to 170mm accumulating in the Nelson ranges from tomorrow afternoon till noon on Sunday.
A watch was being maintained for areas just west of the main ranges, including the Central Plateau, Ruahine and Richmond Ranges, also the Tasman Mountains, which were likely to see very gusty downslope winds.
"This will be a significant adverse weather event, affecting large parts of northern and central New Zealand," MetService said.
"The heavy rain is likely to cause slips and surface flooding, and the severe easterly gales could make driving hazardous, lift roofs, and bring down trees and powerlines."
Coastal communities have been warned to watch out for swells and storm surges, particularly around high tide, Civil Defence cautioned. While boaties have been advised to secure their boats ahead of the encroaching storm, and avoid going out to sea over the weekend.
Motorists have also been advised to take extra care on the roads, or stay indoors. A number of Auckland ferry services have been cancelled.
Elsewhere, electricity companies have warned customers to be prepared for the possibility of outages as a result of the wild weather. It is advised people stay clear of downed power lines or damaged electrical equipment , and call their electricity provider immediately.
'Neighbour helping neighbour'
Auckland's coastal communities are being warned it's a case of "neighbour helping neighbour" as Cyclone Lusi is expected to move through the region tonight and tomorrow.
Residents in communities such as Orewa and Omaha are being warned to prepare for power cuts and to avoid unnecessary travel during the worst of the weather.
Two-metre swells are expected near beaches north of Whangaparoa, with a risk of sand erosion and potential damage to beachfront properties, says Auckland City Council.
At a briefing this afternoon, Council Civil Defence controller Clive Manley said the council had been working with coastal communities on a response plan, and would provide resources to help them.
"[But] at a local level its neighbour helping neighbour."
If "relatively few" residents were displaced, accommodation would be provided around Auckland, but if large-scale evacuations were needed, the council would set up response centres.
Council manager of planning and intelligence Richard Woods said considerable swells were expected in the Hauraki Gulf tomorrow morning, and would be strongest two hours either side of high tide at 7.29am.
When it will hit
Cyclone Lusi is forecast to move out of the tropics today and track west of the North Island tomorrow, before crossing the South Island on Sunday, according to the latest MetService forecast.
MetService meteorologist Dan Corbett told Radio New Zealand today would be relatively calm before a "dramatic change" tonight.
"As we work towards the end of the day we start to see the effects, the outer bands, of this large mass of rain moving into the Far North of the country by the afternoon and evening."
"But it's tonight and into Saturday when the beast will really show its fangs and teeth."
Most of the country would need to "batten down the hatches" with heavy and potentially flooding rains, Mr Corbett told RNZ.
Vector: Be ready for power cuts
Meanwhile, electricity company Vector has warned customers to be prepared for the possibility of outages as a result of the wild weather.
Chief executive Simon Mackenzie said stormy weather could be very unpredictable and have a significant impact on the electricity network.
"We do not expect too many issues but recommend that customers always be prepared for the possibility of an outage during inclement weather."
Vector's field crews had been put on alert and all efforts would be made to respond to any outages as soon as possible. However, crews would only work if it is safe for them to do so, Mr Mackenzie said.
People using medical equipment that relies on electricity should always ensure they were prepared for power disruptions and if there is an immediate health threat, contact their health provider or call 111.
Warning for boaties
Auckland boaties are being warned to secure boats today before expected rough weather arrives this evening.
Strong winds and rough seas are anticipated, which can cause boat moorings to break and result in boat damage and navigation hazards.
Auckland harbourmaster Andrew Hayton said boat owners should check the moorings of boats regularly to ensure they were secure.
"The middle of a gale is not the time to be trying to secure a boat.
"Boats that break free from moorings can cause significant damage to themselves and other vessels."
The Harbourmaster's team often picked up boats adrift during bad weather but in more extreme weather it could be unsafe for patrol vessels and crew to be on the water, he said.
Boat owners are responsible for making sure their boats were secure.
* Stay clear of fallen power lines or damaged electrical equipment and treat them as live at all times
* Ensure garden furniture and umbrellas are put away or tied down
* Ensure trampolines are tied down
* Watch out for falling tree branches which can damage power lines
* Avoid possible damage to electrical appliances (in the unlikely event there is a power surge when the power is restored) by switching off appliances at the wall
* Keep a torch and spare batteries handy and ensure you have at least one telephone that does not rely on electricity for operation * Ensure an alternate fuel supply is available for cooking (eg gas for barbecue)