North well-prepared for storm overnight; Civil Defence
11 Jul 2014
Civil Defence officials say they will be keeping a close watch overnight as the storm that has dogged the region since early this week delivers a final flurry of wind, rain and flooding – but say the region is well-prepared and expected to cope well.
The MetService is warning of a major front expected to hit landfall in Northland about midnight, with a band of severe north-easterly weather moving down the region and eventually moving away from the Far North by about 5am.
The front is expected to deliver another 75-100mm of rain to areas from Kaitaia down to Whangarei – including hourly rainfall of 20-30mm – and winds of up to 100 kmh.
However, Graeme MacDonald, spokesman for the Northland Civil Defence Emergency Management (CDEM) Group, says that 'sting in the tale' is in line with predictions earlier today and has been well planned for.
Mr MacDonald says officials from multiple agencies across Northland – including emergency services, Civil Defence, local and central government and key infrastructural players like power companies – had spent the day preparing for just such an eventuality.
"There's been plenty of warning and a raft of contingencies, covering everything from managing further expected flooding in areas like Moerewa, Kaitaia, Kawakawa and Kaeo, to welfare issues like food and water, have been worked through and put in place."
Mr MacDonald says extra staff, including a number from outside the region, have been brought in to bolster power companies, emergency services and others.
Hardest to plan for, and of big concern to electricity companies Northpower and Top Energy, is the prospect of further power cuts potentially affecting thousands of customers if strong winds bring down trees already weakened by the storm and with sodden roots.
He says both power companies will be concentrating on making safe any lines which may come down overnight and will have crews out first thing tomorrow making repairs.
Mr MacDonald says the power companies have already put in a remarkable effort in trying conditions attempting to restore power to more than 17,500 customers throughout this week.
Even with those efforts, as the region headed into this evening, roughly 1000 people, mainly in the very Far North, are facing the prospect of their fourth night without power.
Mr MacDonald says part of today's preparations had seen the Ministry of Social Development and others working to make sure any resulting needs, including food, would be met for those still without power and others with storm-related welfare issues.
He says where assistance is required, district council Civil Defence personnel are able to refer those in need to the appropriate agency.
"But once again, despite very trying circumstances, Northlanders have collectively proved themselves to be remarkably resilient and have coped well despite everything the elements have thrown at us this week."
Mr MacDonald says ultimately the final extent of any further flooding overnight will depend more on the hourly intensity – rather than overall amount – of any rain.
"If the heaviest falls occur as expected overnight and reach the predicted hourly intensities of anywhere up to 30mm per hour in isolated spots, it will impact pretty much immediately and increase surface flooding dramatically."
Mr MacDonald says that's because with the grounded soaked and rivers and streams already at or over capacity, rain falling that hard will effectively have nowhere else to go.
He repeated earlier warning for people to stay off the roads unless absolutely necessary and says information about any ongoing local district council road and State Highway closures/issues in Northland is available from the Automobile Association website via www.AAroadwatch.co.nz or the NZTA website www.nzta.govt.nz
Those sites contain maps and brief description of closed/affected roads and an indication of when the issue/s involved is likely to be resolved.
Weather-related information will also continue to be posted as required, including on the Northland CDEM Group's Facebook page – www.facebook.com/civildefencenorthland and the Northland Regional Council's website www.nrc.govt.nz/civildefence
Mr MacDonald says officials from a number of agencies will be keeping a close eye on things as