16 Mar 2015

East Coast takes stock after Pam

9:54 pm on 16 March 2015

As the remnants of Cyclone Pam move south down New Zealand's East Coast, some residents are breathing a sigh of relief, while others are mopping up.

The worst may not be over yet, as MetService says the storm could intensify as it moves towards the Chatham Islands, where a state of emergency has been declared.

Is the cyclone affecting the weather where you are? Send your pictures to iwitness@radionz.co.nz

MetService said wind gusts of up to 140 kilometres an hour were recorded in northern Gisborne and more than 150 millimetres of rain had fallen in the Gisborne Ranges.

Most of the 100 people evacuated in the region will be allowed to return home tonight.

Civil Defence said those who left their homes could return once the strong winds and high seas receded.

Those from Anarua Bay, however, were being told not to go home because of the uncertain effects of the high tide tomorrow morning.

Power is still off for 350 customers and seven roads are expected to remain closed overnight.

Schools are expected to re-open tomorrow.

Bridge over Uawa River at Tolaga Bay on Monday morning.

Bridge over Uawa River at Tolaga Bay on Monday morning. Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

Gisborne Civil Defence emergency manager Richard Steele told Checkpoint the worst of the weather had passed but not without causing a reasonable amount of damage.

"The sea has come over some of the low-lying coastal communities, throwing logs and driftwood and rocks across the roads and into people's sections."

Mr Steele said evacuees should check with Civil Defence about whether they could return to their homes.

The Eastland Network, which supplies Gisborne, Tuai and Wairoa, said it had restored power to about 200 people on the Mahia Peninsula in the Hawke's Bay.

But there were still faults at Waipiro Bay, Lottin Point and Awatere, south of Te Araroa.

Puketiti Road near Te Puia was also affected.

Eastland Network general manager Brent Stewart said most of the damage was caused by falling trees.

He said there were still isolated pockets in rural and coastal areas where people were without power, and crews were working on restoring the lines.

The seven roads expected to remain closed overnight are Nuhiti Road, Puketiti Road, Mangatokerau Road, Waikura Road, Tuakau Road, Tolaga Bay, and Beach Road, Waima.

High river levels and heavy silt will prevent Mangatokerau Road from opening for a few days.

The Waikura Road is closed 14km in with power lines and trees down. East Cape Road is open until the last 3km at the last bluff, where a slip remains. Further works there will not go ahead until the wind settles down.

Locals say during a bad storm the waves go over the top of this house in Haumoana

Locals say during a bad storm the waves go over the top of this house in Haumoana Photo: RNZ / Peter Fowler

Hawke's Bay Civil Defence said the high tide this afternoon had not caused problems but there was concern about the next high tide at 3am tomorrow morning.

The road along the coastal settlements of Haumoana, Te Awanga and Clifton was closed to all but residential traffic as a precaution but has now been re-opened.

In a statement, Civil Defence said Napier's port had been closed until tomorrow.

Evacuations near Gisborne

More than 100 people were evacuated from the Gisborne region as the storm continued moving south.

Civil Defence said more than 50 people left the coastal town of Waima, where waves were coming over the seawall and across the road.

Fifteen people were also evacuated at Te Araroa and 32 at Anaura Bay.

A further six people were evacuated from Mangatuna, north of Tolaga Bay.

Army has arrived outside the Tolaga Bay Primary School.

An army vehicle outside the Tolaga Bay Primary School. Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

In Tokomaru Bay, where winds reached 160 kilometres an hour earlier today, one man will need a new roof after the storm brought a tree down on his house.

Hal Hovell, who runs Civil Defence in Tokomaru Bay, said he was not too worried about the damage and it would soon be fixed.

"I was just keeping a check on our coastal communities - and arrived home at 4 o'clock this morning to find a tree on the roof," he said.

"But it's only the house that hurts and nobody's hurt so it's OK."

Mr Hovell said another house in the coastal town suffered structural damage while a woman was inside, but she was rescued by firefighters.

Danger of coastal erosion

Civil Defence said the Hikuwai River, which reached at least eight metres today, historically overflowed the highway at 12 metres. The river reached more than 14 metres in Cyclone Bola.

The area's police commander Sam Aberahama told a briefing this morning one of the main concerns was the damage forecast sea swells of up nine metres could cause to small communities north of the city and to the roads around Gisborne.

Gisborne Civil Defence Emergency Controller Peter Higgs told the briefing there was little reported damage overnight but there remained a danger of coastal erosion.

Gisborne weather commentator Richard Green told Morning Report there were significant swells pushing high into the beach.

The cyclone, which brought widespread destruction to Vanuatu, has been downgraded but is still carrying intense winds.

The Ministry of Civil Defence said large, possibly damaging waves and strong winds had been experienced on the east coast of the North Island, especially from Hawke's Bay to Cape Reinga. It activated the National Crisis Management Centre (NCMC) today.

Further north, wind gusts of 144 kilometres an hour were recorded in exposed parts of the Hauraki Gulf overnight and similar strength wind in parts of Northland.

Power was cut to almost 2000 homes in the Auckland region following high winds but has now mostly been restored. Power was also restored to the 600 Waiheke Island customers cut off during the high winds. Of the 1200 households that lost electricity supplies in South Hokianga, in the Far North, only a handful are still without power.

Extra emergency staff ranging from police, army, fire and health, to roading and network services have been relocated to the area.

The view from Okitu surf club

The view from Okitu surf club Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

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