Saturday, 12 July 2014

Stormy weather pattern stuck in northern New Zealand

Down here in Wellington, at the bottom of the North Island you wouldn't know this was going on. 

We seem to have a pattern of weather here whereby it is constantly overcast and temperatures are well above mid-winter averages.
Meanwhile, north of Auckland a pattern of weather has become stuck for several days which is bringing gales and floods to that part of the country.
What is unique in all this, is not only the higher-than-normal temrperatures, but that this weather pattern has become stuck.
The normal pattern for New Zealand has been that we have been prone to storms - but these normally pass over quickly.

We don't seem to have a Paul Beckwith in this country to help us make sense of it all (instead of saying, like a mantra, that this is 'just weather' and 'weather is different from climate').

I would say that the jet stream is doing something unusual and the weather (including, unfortunately for Auckland), has become stuck.

Woman swept from tree 
near falls
Emergency services are scrambling to search for a woman who has been swept from a tree near Haruru Falls in Northland
Bay Rescue are working with Northland SAR to search for a woman who has been swept from a tree near Haruru Falls. Photo / Coastguard Northern Region via Facebook

12 July, 2014

Coastguard Northern Region spokeswoman Georgie Smith said they received a call from Northland Fire Service around 6.30am to assist in finding a woman who had been swept from a tree near the falls.

The Coastguard Bay Rescue vessel was searching the mouth of the Waitangi River for the woman, she said.

Conditions were treacherous, Ms Smith said.

"We were advised at 6.45am this morning by Northland Search and Rescue who requested our Coastguard rescue vessel called Bay Rescue - to start searching around the Waitangi River-mouth area," Coastguard Northern Region spokeswoman Georgie Smith said.

"We were told they were searching for a woman who had been swept away who had originally been reported [as being in] a tree up the Haruru Falls.

"Bay Rescue are working with Paihia Fire [Service] who we believe are on a jet ski and Northland SAR who are land based," Ms Smith said.

"Bay Rescue is unable to get under the bridge there due to high tide, large amounts of debris and flood waters, however they're continuing to search around the river-mouth.

"It's confirmed that they're searching for one person, but we believe there may be possibly four people in trouble."

Northern Fire Communications shift manager Paul Radden said they were assisting people at a property which had been flooded due to a burst river bank.

"I believe we've rescued one and there's one more to rescue."

Coastguard Northern Region spokeswoman Georgie Smith said the search was continuing from the missing woman.

"We understand that emergency services are also now trying to locate some small rubber dinghies with enough horsepower than can get up there where three or four people have been found clinging to a tree.

"At the moment, due to the current of the river and things like that, no one's been able to get to them - so they're just to work out how to do that."

The current is moving at about 30 knots, she said.

"It's pumping".

Westpac Rescue Helicopter was heading to the scene.

Power repair crews to use choppers, jet skis

Repair crews will use helicopters and jetskis to reach remote communities in Northland without power after more heavy rain caused widespread damage Friday and into Saturday morning..
Downstream from Whangarei Falls with picnic table under water bottom right.Downstream from Whangarei Falls with picnic table under water bottom right.Photo: RNZ/ Lois Williams

The number of homes without power has now doubled to about 2000

More than 400 mms of rain has fallen in parts of Northland in recent days, with floods forcing people from their homes and closing roads.

Northpower spokesperson Steve McMillan said repair crews could be hampered by blocked roads and the threat of rising river levels.

Mr McMillan urged people with holiday homes in Northland to notify their power companies if their properties have no power.

Northland power lines company Top Energy, meanwhile, is reassuring people in isolated areas that it knows their power is off, and help is on the way.

The tiny rural settlements of Motatau, Matawaia and Opahi, south of Kawakawa, have had no electricity, phone or internet since Tuesday - and are also cut off by floods.

Peter Heath of Top Energy said the company wants those people to know it hasn't forgotten them.

"Our crews are working like mad to get your electricity back. I'd also say that we continue to get a lot of enquiries about customer welfare needs and we're emphasising that anyone needing shelter, heating food or water should contact the Far North District Council."

Mr Heath said the thousand customers still without power in the Far North are mainly in small clusters of 20 to 50 households.

The company said the majority of those are expected to be restored on Saturday with the rest back on by Monday.

In Whangarei and Kaipara, only about 250 customers were still waiting for reconnection on Friday night.

And the storm that's plagued Northland all week has done some serious damage to boats at Opua in the Bay of Islands.

Three have sunk; two are missing; one's fallen off its cradle at a local boatyard and one was smashed to pieces on the beach.

Meanwhile Northland rescue crews are searching for a woman swept from a tree above Haruru Falls near Waitangi.

Coastguard says it sent a boat to help with the land and sea search after it was alerted just before 7am Saturday.

Flooding hits Northland

Floodwaters at Otiria marae and surrounds on Friday.Floodwaters at Otiria marae and surrounds on Friday.  Photo: Mike Butler

Five households have been evacuated in Northland over Friday and dozens of roads remain closed after intense rain caused widespread flooding across the region.

The families were evacuated from Oteria, near Moerewa.

Northland Civil defence spokesman Graham McDonald said the rain predicted for the region was accurate, however the high winds did not eventuate.

Emergency services will be assessing the damage at daybreak.

Meanwhile, more heavy rain and high winds are expected for Auckland on Saturday.

Vector said crews were called out to two outages in Oratia and Henderson Valley overnight but most were restored. Vector warns more bad weather could cause problems on Saturday.

Civil defence is warning that rising river levels could cause more problems.

Northland Civil Defence manager Graeme McDonald said more than 400 mms of rain has fallen in recent days, flooding many eastern parts of Northland.

He said emergency crews have had to wait till daylight to assess the damage but it won't be easy as there is damage to roads in the region.

Flooding on Otiria Road, Moerewa on Friday. Flooding on Otiria Road, Moerewa on Friday.

Tornados in mix as final surge of weather heads south

Northlanders are being urged to look out for one another, after another night of severe weather.

12 July, 2014

The final surge of strong winds and heavy rainfall has increased the risk of flooding and power outages.

About a thousand households have had no across Northland and Auckland, most of those affected are in the Far North.

Have you been affected? Send your story, photos or videos here.

Top Energy chief Russell Shaw says people need to contact Far North District Council, with any immediate Civil Defence concerns.

"We continue to receive inquiries about customer welfare needs and by that I mean shelter, heating, food and water."

To make matters worse, the electricity network has taken another hammering.

Mr Shaw says there are small rural pockets where it's been getting more difficult to restore power.

"There's maybe 20 or 30 customers in each of those pockets so we now have to go back to those and find out what the problems are for each one of those pockets and resolve it."

Far North sports fields are closed, and Northland farmers are being urged to move stock to higher ground.

Around a thousand properties in the Far North have been cut off overnight, but more damage is expected from the fierce overnight conditions.

About 200 homes to the north West of Auckland lost power shortly after 4am.

Vector expects to have them reconnected by around the middle of the morning.

MetService says a very active front is gradually working its way down from Northland, and will reach southern parts of Auckland by about 9am.

It's already dumped a lot of rain in parts of Northland, and will bring more as it heads south.

There's also the risk of a small tornado on the east coast, flash flooding, and slips.

For your information here are the weather charts for the southern hemisphere - 

If you go HERE you can see the forecast for the next few days

Comments from 'in situ' from Kevin Hester in Auckland.

 "I have noticed that we have had a sustained storm with a 

remarkably low rainfall component, It has really stood out 

with the low pressure system being parked without a high on 

it's shoulder to keep it in place. I'msurprised to say the least."

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