14 Apr 2017

'Huge clean-up job' following wild weather

9:54 pm on 14 April 2017

The worst of Cyclone Cook may be over but there is a huge clean-up job ahead in the coming months, Civil Defence says.

The storm brought havoc to many parts of the North Island, particularly on the east coast, leaving fallen trees and power lines, slips, and road closures in its wake.

It was clear people had listened to advice and made sure they were prepared, Director of Civil Defence and Emergency Management Sarah Stuart-Black said.

But with power out in many parts, and many roads closed, Civil Defence staff were still working to assess the damage.

"The extent of damage across affected regions, in particular in the Bay of Plenty, will not be known until aerial assessments have taken place," she said. "Aircraft are already in the air to get an initial idea of the extent of the damage across the bay."

All of the government agencies involved would be providing support to badly-affected communities in the weeks and months ahead.

"This is not over for those residents in Whakatane, Edgecumbe and those surrounding areas," she said. "Those families and that community... have been severely impacted.

"There's a huge clean-up job ahead and that will take a long time... this is the beginning of that recovery effort," she said.

Waters in Hawke's Bay were still high as the sun was rising about 6.30am.

Waters in Hawke's Bay were still high as the sun was rising about 6.30am. Photo: Twitter / @Jacky_Braid

Not over yet

Ms Stuart-Black warned that it was still a "risky time" and people should be cautious over the next few days.

People should avoid damaged roads but if they must travel they should be prepared for challenging conditions, including debris, she said.

She also advised people to be wary of delayed flooding as rain that fell in catchment areas might not raise water levels until later today.

Damaged buildings should be checked carefully, including windows, walls, doors, ceilings and roofs, she said.

The storm triggered evacuations in low-lying coastal areas of Bay of Plenty and the east coast of Coromandel yesterday.

Trees have been brought down on the road between Ohope and Opotiki.

Trees have been brought down on the road between Ohope and Opotiki. Photo: RNZ / Sharon Brettkelly

The local state of emergency in the Thames-Coromandel area has been lifted and the Whakatāne District Council says people evacuated from their homes in Ohope can now return.

The Bay of Plenty region-wide state of emergency has been lifted, a state of emergency remains in place for the Whakatāne district.

Over 100 people bedded down at Whakatāne's Red Cross centre overnight.

The mayor of Whakatane said he was concerned about residents of the small town of Ruatahauna, who have now been isolated for more than a week because of Cyclone Debbie.

The bad weather of the past 24 hours has also knocked out power and telecommunications to the community.

The town has a population of about 2000 people, and is in a remote part of the Urerewa hill country.

The Mayor, Tony Bonne, said the town could remain isolated for several weeks.

Ohope's West End after the storm.

Ohope's West End after the storm. Photo: RNZ / Sharon Brettkelly

Have you been affected by the storm? Email photos and video to RNZ at iwitness@radionz.co.nz. Please include your contact details if you are willing to speak to one of our reporters.

Storm heading south

The storm is technically no longer a tropical cyclone, but MetService has continued to refer to it as Cyclone Cook to reflect its intensity.

In Christchurch, the Heathcote River has overflowed its banks after 35 millimetres of rain hit the area as the weather passed through.

Christchurch City Council said contractors were working to clear grates and check pumps, and are monitoring drains.

The council said it was possible the rain may cause ash and soil from the fire-damaged Port Hills to get into waterways, particularly in Heathcote.

Change of course minimised weather's impact

Meteorologist Chris Noble said the cyclone tracked 20-30km further east than projected, although still within the forecast route, and that probably spared the rest of the North Island.

"The worst of the weather was in those eastern parts of Bay of Plenty, out through Gisborne and down through Hawke's Bay," he said.

"Had the system tracked a little bit further west I think it would have been a very different story for the likes of central and western parts of the North Island, including Auckland and Wellington."

Road closures

Drivers are being advised to take care today, as floods and slips have closed or damaged roads.

Roads out of Auckland and Wellington are jammed with people who delayed getting away for their Easter break because of this week's bad weather.

Traffic on the Southern Motorway out of Auckland is crawling and north of Wellington, State Highway 1 up the Kapiti Coast is heavily congested.

Roads have been closed in parts of the Coromandel, Hawke's Bay and Bay of Plenty.

In the South Island, SH1 was closed in Seddon after flooding.

The Motueka Valley highway is blocked 20km north of Tapawera and people will need to travel via Richmond to get to Motueka.

There are also several slips on the Takaka Hill.

Check out NZTA's website for full information about road closures.

All Cook Strait ferries are to run as scheduled today.

Power outages

Thousands of homes throughout eastern parts of the North Island remain without power - and some areas will not have power restored until tomorrow.

Horizon Networks said 1500 people remain without power in Bay of Plenty.

It said many powerlines were down across the district and power may be out in some areas for up to three days.

Horizon Networks said Cyclone Cook caused significant damage to power infrastructure in the Whakatāne and Opotiki districts.

Horizon Networks said Cyclone Cook caused significant damage to power infrastructure in the Whakatāne and Opotiki districts. Photo: Horizon Networks

In Whakatane, where power cuts are putting pressure on the wastewater system, residents are being asked to conserve water and boil it before consumption.

In Hawke's Bay, 3000 homes will be without power overnight, following yesterday's bad weather.

The power lines company Unison said there are still about 3000 mainly rural properties which were likely to be without power tonight.

But its spokesperson, Danny Gough, said the crews had made great progress restoring power today and would be back out again at first light.

A woman stands in front of a fallen tree on her property in Hastings.

A woman stands in front of a fallen tree on her property in Hastings. Photo: Supplied / Mark Dames

Mr Gough said he had heard of people out with chainsaws trying to clear the debris, and he urged them to leave it to the experts.

The lines company Eastland Group said about 600 homes in the Gisborne Tairawhiti region still had no power at 6.30pm and about 350 homes would be left without power overnight.