14 Apr 2017

Cyclone Cook triggers evacuations, cuts power to thousands

12:30 am on 14 April 2017

Cyclone Cook swept south through Bay of Plenty and Hawke's Bay on Thursday, triggering evacuations and cutting power to thousands.

Many roads were blocked due to landslips and fallen trees and power poles.

MetService has lifted severe weather warnings for Auckland, the Coromandel Peninsula and Bay of Plenty but said gusts of up to 140km/h were still possible in Gisborne, Hawke's Bay, Wairarapa and Wellington until early Friday morning.

Are you affected by the storm? If it's safe for you to do so, you can 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.

More than 20,000 properties around Hawke's Bay and Rotorua, according to Unison's website, and about 1000 in the Gisborne area lost power due to high winds on Thursday.

Gisborne's lines company, Eastland Network, said some properties would have their power restored that evening, and the rest would happen over the next day or two.

Unison said its timeframe for its Hawke's Bay customers would depend on weather and safety.

Hawke's Bay's Civil Defence controller Ian McDonald said about 10pm that conditions had started to settle down.

Bay of Plenty

Authorities earlier asked people in low-lying coastal areas of Bay of Plenty and the east coast of the Coromandel to evacuate due to the risk of extreme storm surges.

Everyone in Ohope's West End was told to leave their homes, with some nearby areas also affected.

Whakatāne Mayor Tony Bonne told RNZ on Thursday evening that trees were down, roads were closed and some power was out in the district.

But he said fears of widespread damage at high tide did not come to pass.

"I've just had the chief executive of our council call in and have a chat and it looks like we've come through OK."

The Bay of Plenty Fire Service said it had received about 100 flood-related calls since the storm hit. Some homes have been flooded or hit by trees, while slips and power lines have also come down on roads and properties.

The assistant area manager, Kevin Cowper, said there were no reports of injuries.

More than 800 properties in Tauranga and another 170 in Waihi were hit by power cuts.

The Whakatāne District Council was also evacuating campgrounds in the western end of the district, including the Department of Conservation (DOC) campground in Matatā, Murphy's Holiday Camp, Pikowai Campground, the Ōtamarākau free-camping area and Thornton Beach Holiday Park.

Some Ohope people forced to leave their homes sought beds at a local evacuation centre. Many others went to stay with family or friends.

About 70 beds are being set up in the Whakatāne Memorial Hall for Cyclone Cook evacuees.

About 70 beds were set up in the Whakatāne Memorial Hall for evacuees. Photo: Twitter / @lauren_olive

Whakatāne deputy mayor Judy Turner, who is helping at the evacuation centre at the War Memorial Hall, said a steady stream of people had been coming through the doors.

She said the centre had 20 beds and was likely to set up another 40 for people in need.

The Bay of Plenty Regional Council said it was confident there was no new flood risk to the already-sodden town of Edgecumbe.

The town was inundated by a wall of water after a stopbank on the Rangitāiki River burst last week, flooding the town and forcing its 1600 residents to flee.

Coromandel

On the Coromandel, officials said the storm passed through quickly and without intense wind, but solid rainfall was due to continue well into the evening

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A map from Windy TV shows the storm's position about 8pm on Thursday. Photo: www.windytv.com

Thames Valley Civil Defence Controller Gary Towler said strong winds and heavy rain was still expected overnight and many roads were affected by slips.

He said anyone planning to head to the Coromandel this long weekend should wait until Friday morning after the situation has been reassessed.

Mr Towler said he was confident land crews got to most low-lying places during the morning to advise people to evacuate.

He said it was not known just how many people took the advice to leave but Powerco, which supplied electricity to the region, reported a noticeable decrease in power use.

Welfare centres were open throughout the peninsula.

Parts of SH25, or Thames Coast Road, have been closed north of Waiomu after slips. The road was also washed out in the morning near Pumpkin Hill.

Auckland and Northland

Auckland Civil Defence officials said the region appeared to have got off lightly after the storm tracked further east than forecast, away from the coast.

SH10 was closed due to flooding near Kaeo this morning.

SH1 south of Kaitaia closed after it was blocked by a slip, with NZ Transport Agency saying this meant the Far North was temporarily inaccessible. It later reopened.

There was also a slip on SH11 at Paihia Road near Opua.

It was technically no longer a tropical cyclone, but MetService continued to refer to it as Cyclone Cook to reflect its intensity.

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