The Bay of Plenty is bracing for an event on the same scale as Cyclone Debbie, which flooded the town of Edgecumbe last week.
The region went into a state of emergency on Tuesday night in preparation for new tropical Cyclone Cook hitting, advising 57 schools in the region to close and pumping as much water out of already-flooded areas as possible.
Up to 250mm of rainfall is expected to hit from midday Wednesday through Friday.
That’s a similar level – more in some areas – than the rainfall that fell during Debbie, and it’s hitting already moist land. It’s close to the normal level of rainfall expected for the entire month of April.
“Worse case scenario, there could be higher rainfall totals than the previous two storms,” Niwa meteorologist Ben Noll said.
More flooding is likely.
“The ground is saturated at the moment, so any additional rainfall is going to pool on the ground. Even more significant river flooding is possible,” MetService meteorologist Nick Zacher said.
“It sometimes takes two or even three days for that rainfall to trickle down from higher ground and get to flood plains. So we may not see the highest river levels to Friday or even Sunday.”
The heavy rain was due to Cyclone Cook, which was on its way to New Zealand from New Caledonia, and a low pressure system which was currently in the Tasman.
The two would combine for a particularly wet and windy week.
The rain would start at noon on Wednesday and continue to lash the northern North Island throughout the week.
Cyclone Cook, arriving on Thursday, will bring gale force winds and even more rainfall. It’s path was not yet certain but it was likely to hit parts of the Bay of Plenty and Auckland region.
“If we get Cyclone Cook hitting the Bay of Plenty it could be quite devastating,” MetService meteorologist William Nepe said.
Noll said the tropical cyclone would dissipate over the Tasman Sea before intensifying again on approach to New Zealand.
“We’re expecting a round of scattered showers to come through, perhaps around day break on Wednesday – which can be described as an hors d’oeuvres for what’s to come.
He said the rainfall would become intense on Thursday to peak from 6pm to midnight.
Auckland could see up to 160mm of rain.
SCHOOLS TO CLOSE
All 57 schools and about 80 early learning services in the Eastern Bay of Plenty will be advised to close on Wednesday as a precaution ahead of Cyclone Cook.
With heavy wet rain forecast to hit the region from about midday Wednesday, there is concern further flooding will close roads already affected by slips, Ministry of Education deputy secretary of Sector Enablement and Support Katrina Casey said.
“Following Tuesday’s decision by the Bay of Plenty Civil Defence emergency management group to expand the state of emergency, we are taking precautions and asking all 57 schools in the Whakatane, Opotiki and Kawerau districts to close,” Casey said.
“We are also asking about 80 early learning services including Kohanga and home-based care services in these areas to close on Wednesday.
Earlier on Tuesday, Anne Tolley – recently named as “lead minister to Edgecumbe” said she was concerned if the rebuilt levee in the flooded town would withstand the coming storm.
“It looks pretty good … The question is this next weather event,” she said, speaking during a visit to outside the Fonterra plant in Edgecumbe, where relief efforts and clean-up crews were being organised.
“The Rangitaiki has gone down, but the Whakatane River is still pretty full.
“I’m no engineer. At the end, it’s a temporary fix. It all depends on just where this next weather bomb hits and how severe it is.”
A upgraded state of emergency for the Bay of Plenty has been announced, as frantic efforts to pump water out of the flooded town of Edgecumbe and lower the Matahina Dam to the lowest level on record are made.
RAINY DAY FOR REST OF THE COUNTRY TOO
While they could not expect the same scale of rain as the northern North Island, heavy rain was already hitting parts of the South Island on Wednesday morning.
Up to 200mm of rain hit in the ranges around Nelson overnight with maximum rainfall rates of 30 to 40mm an hour.
Heavy rain was also hitting the Marlborough Sounds and Christchurch. It was expected to clear during the afternoon.