Saturday, 28 Nov 2020

Weather: Heavy rain lashes Auckland, strong winds may close harbour bridge, weather warning for upper North Island

Severe weather warnings are in place for parts of the North Island, including in Auckland – where heavy rain and strong gusts may lead to the closure of the harbour bridge.

Gusts of up to 100km/h are forecast in exposed parts of Auckland, with things set to pick up from 1pm and continuing until about 7pm.

MetService is warning people that those winds have the potential to cause damage and some motorists are being told to avoid the bridge today.

“Strong wind gusts could damage trees, powerlines and unsecured structures.

“Driving may be hazardous, especially for high-sided vehicles and motorcycles.”

The speed limit has been dropped down to 70km/h and motorists are warned they will not hesitate to close the bridge if wind speeds get too high.

Auckland traffic chaos

Motorists travelling northbound on Auckland’s Southwestern Motorway are being told to expect delays in the Dominion Rd area.

Multiple lanes were blocked between Dominion Rd and Maioro St on SH20 following a crash which has now been pushed clear of lanes, NZTA says.

Elsewhere, a breakdown in the Waterview Tunnel northbound has been cleared and all lanes are open.

Waterspout spotted

A heavy rain watch also looms over Auckland, including Great Barrier Island, with periods of heavy rain forecast from 10am to 7pm.

The public is being warned that rainfall amounts (45mm to 55mm) may approach “warning criteria”.

At Papamoa Beach, in Tauranga, a waterspout was spotted this morning.

Footage of the phenomenon was captured by Tauranga Land Search and Rescue chief executive Carl McOnie and shared on the MetService Twitter page.

The waterspout can be seen skimming the water and moving back and forth just under a large grey cloud.

“The risk of thunderstorms increases this afternoon, so more funnels are possible and some heavy rain,” the authority said.

Ferry services disrupted

Fullers has issued an alert to ferry users and is asking people to keep an eye on its website and app for updates.

“Please be advised due to adverse weather conditions, there may be disruptions to our services.”

The alert is for all services – Auckland City, Bayswater, Beach Haven, Birkenhead, Coromandel, Devonport, Half Moon Bay, Hobsonville Point, Rangitoto Island, Stanley Bay and Waiheke Island.

For Gulf Harbour ferry passengers, a replacement bus service will run today instead due to bad weather conditions.

Replacement taxis were also provided for earlier services.

A temperature high of 21C is expected in the City of Sails today and an overnight low of 17C.

Heavy rain warnings are in place for Northland, Coromandel Peninsula, Bay of Plenty west of Whakatāne and from Whakatāne eastwards, and Westland south of Otirā.

Those in Northland can expect between 60mm and 70mm of rain – especially in the east – from 8am to 4pm.

People in the Coromandel are in for about 90mm to 120mm of rainfall from 9am to 9pm; while people in the Bay of Plenty are in for heavy falls from this afternoon through to tomorrow.

“Heavy rain may cause streams and rivers to rise rapidly,” MetService warned.

Surface flooding and slips are also a possibility, authorities said, and drivers are being urged to be extra careful when out and about today.

The grim weather is thanks to a low-pressure system bringing an intense period of heavy rain and strong winds for the upper North Island today.

People are warned that downpours may bring 30mm of rain in an hour and wind gusts could reach up to 110km/h.

Western areas of the South Island are also in for “a large dose of rain”, MetService says, and 400mm of rain was expected over Westland over a period of 36 hours starting at 11am yesterday.

Auckland Harbour Bridge may be closed

Transport authorities are also warning motorists who usually use the Auckland Harbour Bridge to keep an eye on updates; as the bridge may need to be closed at some point.

Large and high-sided vehicles, including trucks, and motorcyclists are being told to avoid the bridge altogether and are instead being urged to use the alternative routes on State Highways 16 and 18.

The Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency is working with MetService to monitor weather conditions throughout the day and will make the necessary moves if need be.

Winds of between 80km/h and 90km/h are forecast in the area near the bridge from 8am to 1pm.

Gusts are forecast to be even stronger later in the day – with winds expected to reach up to 100km/h from 1pm to 8pm, before easing back.

Auckland system manager Andrea Williamson said: “We advise motorists to plan ahead and allow extra time for their journeys.

“Drive to the conditions, keep within your lane when crossing the bridge and keep to the speed limit.

“Safety is our priority and we will not hesitate to close the bridge if that becomes necessary.”

The announcement comes after freak winds on September 18 blew a truck into a strut on bridge – causing damage and resulting in the closure of the bridge for several days as it was fixed.

A better day in the south

Further south, occasional rain is forecast for Marlborough – not including the Kaikōura Coast. The same conditions are expected in Nelson and Buller.

People on the Kaikōura Coast and Canterbury will be happy to know that fine spells are on the cards – save for some scattered showers south of Christchurch from lunchtime.

Rain is, however, expected in Fiordland and some scattered showers are predicted in Otago and Southland – where there is also a possibility of thunderstorms for Otago this afternoon and evening.

Rain is also expected in Southland and Clutha tonight, while the Chatham Islands is in for a mostly cloudy day.

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