Storm turns attention to Auckland

Dangerous sea conditions are expected to strike Auckland this afternoon as ex tropical Cyclone Lusi whips down the North Island.

The storm has turned its attention to Auckland from the Far North, resulting in thousands without power, surface flooding, landslips, rockfalls and trees down around the region.

Auckland Civil Defence is urging beach-goers to steer clear of the ocean after dangerous conditions that affected Northland this morning would be mirrored further south.

Large wave surges were expected to hit around Orewa about 5pm, Auckland Council said.

Civil Defence controller Clive Manley said people needed to be very careful, especially later this afternoon and into the evening on or near east coast beaches in Rodney and the North Shore.

"We are expecting bad sea conditions which may cause erosion of beaches and nearby low-lying areas.

"People should stay out of the water and off those beaches for the rest of today."

The Auckland Harbourmaster has advised three boats had to be secured after they broke moorings today.

Because of conditions in the harbour, a ship has been redirected to shelter off the Coromandel Peninsula.

Forecasts have indicated that accumulations might be higher than previously modelled, with rainfall north of Orewa could increase to an additional 50mm - 70mm today, with lesser amounts for the rest of the region, Mr Manley said.

Winds were still expected to increase in strength and peak this afternoon.

Meanwhile, the fire service has been busy attending about 80 callouts during the day, mostly for downed trees on powerlines, which has cut power to thousands.

Fire crews also secured a roof in Orewa that was being lifted by strong winds, a spokesman said.

The damaging storm has brought gales and driving rain to the Far North and it was now tracking south along the country.

Strong easterly winds gusting to 120km/h blew a shed through power lines at Whangarei Heads overnight, cutting power to 2000 homes, a Northpower spokesman said.

Residents affected were in towns along the east coast.

More than 7700 Vector customers also had their power out around the Auckland area today, with crews working to reconnect residents.

Those affected were in Waimauku, Whitford, Omaha, Cockle Bay, Remuera , Stanmore Bay, Arkles Bay, Red Beach, Wellsford and Port Albert.

Stormwater blockages from debris and persistent rainfall were causing isolated surface flooding around the region, Auckland Civil Defence and Emergency Management duty officer Jamie Richards said.

A rockfall also blocked part of the Hibiscus Coast Highway at Waiwera this morning. analyst Philip Duncan said the storm still retained category 1 strength winds with sustained gales near the centre and gusts over 100km/h.

The terrain of New Zealand was helping boost those wind speeds further in some exposed parts of Northland.

In Auckland winds were gale force in some places while other suburbs are fairly calm, he said.

Severe weather warnings have been issued for Northland, Auckland, Coromandel Peninsula, Bay of Plenty, Gisborne, Nelson and Marlborough.

Housing New Zealand also said it would make extra staff available over the weekend, with maintenance contractors ready to deal with any urgent repairs.

However, residents in at-risk coastal areas have been told it's a case of ``neighbour helping neighbour'' to ensure safety.

The brunt of Cyclone Lusi's force was expected to strike the North Island throughout today, before gradually weakening as it moves into the South Island tomorrow.

The storm should be clear of New Zealand by Monday, with only a few showers and brisk winds remaining in the south and east.

Canterbury was bracing itself for more flooding, with the Christchurch City Council saying it was preparing for the worst case scenario following recent damaging floods in the area.

About 22,000 sandbags will be filled and ready for collection in various locations across the city by noon today, with all emergency response teams on stand-by.

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