Heavy rain, flooding as storm hammers NZ

Roads are closing in Tasman, strong winds are buffeting the capital and a state of emergency has been declared in flood-hit Dunedin and the Buller District.

The remains of ex-Cyclone Fehi has bought the first serious storm of the year to many parts of the country today.

The Ministry of Civil Defence and Emergency Management tweeted that the state of emergency had been declared in Dunedin just before 3pm. On Wednesday, he city recorded the country's highest temperature of 34C with blazing hot sun.

More than 60mm of rain was forecast between midday and 4pm. “We want to keep people off roads that may be affected by surface flooding at a peak time,” DCC Civil Defence Controller Sandy Graham said.

Wellington had been hit by winds gusting over 110km/h, Niwa reported, and nine flights out of the city have been cancelled. Strong winds were also buffeting parts of Canterbury in the afternoon.

MetService said heavy falls were forecast to set in from midday today through until tomorrow morning for Rotorua, Bay of Plenty, and Taupo with thunderstorms possible from 5pm. It said 100 to 150mm of rain could accumulate, mainly about the ranges.

There were severe wind and rain warnings for the South Island, where people are warned to stay away from beaches and exposed areas. 

Strong winds have lifted roofs and sent trees crashing into powerlines. Road users were warned to drive to the conditions and some roads in the Nelson and Tasman areas and on the West Coast were closed, police said.

Major evacuations were under way  this afternoon in Nelson, Mapua and Richmond due to flooding and winds gusting up to 90km/h was driving sea water over key coastal route Rocks Rd (SH6) in Nelson.

Driver Melissa Richards said she feared for her life as feared for her life as huge waves swept across Rocks Rd and almost smashed her into a bank.

"I called my husband to say goodbye," said Richards, who was on her way to work from her home on Victoria Rd this morning.

"I saw there was no cars on Rocks Rd, which was unusual but I kept going. I went around the first corner and the waves were flying out. I got taken into the bank. The wave just slam dunked across the road."

Richards followed a truck out of the chaos but not before calling her husband to say she thought she might not make it. "The police officer said I was very lucky."

Two waterfront restaurants have been evacuated and closed and a motor camp at Mapua has also been evacuated because of the tidal surge. Falling trees have closed several roads in Takaka, Ruby Bay and Central Rd South in Tasman. People had to be ferried from their flooded homes in Monaco in surf life-saving boats.

Police are recommending that drivers take extreme care on the Coastal Highway between Greymouth and Westport as a number of trees have come down.

Winds reaching 100km/h have lifted roofs between Hokitika, Greymouth, Cobden, Rununga and Dobson. Power was intermittent in Franz Josef, which had been drenched with more than 145mm of rain.

Fire and Emergency southern communications shift manager Andrew Norris said a fire crew helped at a property in Westport where roofing had come loose.

North Islanders woke to a blustery morning. Auckland recorded the windiest start, with 67km/h winds blowing through the city.

While Auckland escaped the worst of the storm, locals were warned more trouble could hit later on.

Tamaki Dr was open again after a king tide sparked its closure, but the road could be closed once again when another high tide hits tonight.

Some flights scheduled for departure from Auckland were being cancelled due to treacherous weather.


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