Severe weather watch a ‘sensible precaution’; Civil Defence

17 Jul 2014

Civil Defence officials say a ‘severe weather watch’ issued for Northland for the weekend reflects a sensible, cautious approach by forecasters and is no cause for alarm at this stage.

Northland Civil Defence logo.

The MetService – which issued the watch today – says at this stage it's too early to accurately determine the depth and track of an approaching low, which it uses to predict likely rainfall – but it could possibly be significant.

It says given large swathes of Northland are still sodden after the recent storm, even 30 to 50mm of rain (normally well below its warning criteria) could be enough to cause further issues in flood-affected areas.

Tony Phipps, spokesman for the Northland Civil Defence Emergency Management (CDEM) Group, says given the recent storm, forecasters are simply adopting a sensible, cautious approach but says there's no real cause for alarm at this stage.

"Forecasters will continue to monitor the situation and their advice – which we agree with – is that people should keep up to date with the latest forecasts as they come to hand in case the watch is upgraded to a full warning."

Mr Phipps says the MetService will have a much better idea about the low and its likely effects tomorrow morning and in the meantime officials locally, including hydrologists and other experts, were also monitoring its progress carefully.

In the meantime, Mr Phipps says Northland's post-storm recovery efforts, now into a sixth day, continue to progress well.

Power is expected to have been restored to all but a few dozen customers by tomorrow – compared to roughly 20,000 without power last week – and the reopening of a crucial section of State Highway One affected by a huge slip south of Kawakawa is expected late tomorrow/early Saturday.

Both the Far North and Whangarei District Councils had now launched Mayoral Funds – supported by a grant from central government – to assist those affected by the storm.

Additionally, staff from all three district councils and other agencies had now visited hundreds of properties in flood-affected areas to assess needs and deliver help.

Mr Phipps says while they are confident that known, immediate welfare needs are being met, officials still want to hear from anyone with unaddressed, pressing issues.

"Again, anyone whose home is flooded or who urgently needs accommodation, food, heating, clothing or medical supplies to contact their local council in the first instance."

"In the Far North, they can call the Far North District Council on 0800 920 029, the Whangarei District Council number is 0800 932 463 and in Kaipara, people should call their council on 0800 727 059."

Similarly, Northpower and Top Energy are keen for all faults to be reported to them. Top Energy's fault line number is 0800 867 363 and Northpower's 0800 10 40 40.

Mr Phipps says information about 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

However, he says it's important that people realise that the roading situation in Northland in the wake of the storm can still literally change from one minute to next and he urged people to be patient and understanding when travelling.

"With the number of roads and routes involved and the myriad things that can impact on them, even with the best of intentions, it's simply impossible to capture all of these and get that information to the public with 100 percent accuracy."

Recovery and other storm-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