As Cyclone Gabrielle lashes the north of New Zealand, around 46,000 homes have lost power. Warnings of heavy rain and winds have been issued by the authorities along with hundreds of flights being canceled. As Gabrielle nears the North Island, certain areas have declared a state of emergency.
Cyclone Gabrielle came weeks after Auckland and its surrounding areas were hit by heavy rainfall that sparked floods and also killed four people. New Zealand prime Minister Chris Hipkins mentioned that there has been one extreme weather event after another. He also announced an NZ$11.5m (US $7.3m) aid package.
Kieran McAnulty, Emergency Management Minister informed the media on Monday that the government is considering announcing a national emergency for only the third time in the nation’s history. She mentioned that things are likely to get worse before they get any better.
There are 5 regions in the north including Auckland that have already declared a state of emergency. The local authorities and expanded authority are allowed to respond to dangerous situations, allowing them to restrict travel, and provide aid according to the declaration. According to Metservice, New Zealand’s meteorological agency, Whangarei, a city north of Auckland had received 100.5mm of rain (4 inches) in the last 12 hours.
Mr. McAnulty mentioned that due to the dangerous combination of heavy rains and high winds, Monday would be a critical day. The winds in the Northland region were buffeted up to 140 km/h (87 mph). The Auckland Harbour Bridge was also shaken by gusts of 110 km/h. He also warned New Zealand’s citizens that it could take a few days to restore the power grid as it was unsafe to work on the network during this bad weather.
Metservice stated in its most recent update on Monday that Gabrielle will still bring "significant heavy rain and potentially damaging winds." Earlier, meteorologists had downgraded Gabrielle's intensity, but the storm will still bring "significant heavy rain and potentially damaging winds," according to Metservice. The cyclone has yet to make landfall but it has already damaged roads, downed power lines, and destroyed many trees.
The communities in coastal regions were made to evacuate on Monday. A mandatory evacuation order was issued for the entire eastern coastline of the Bay of Plenty, which encompasses approximately 400 homes, as well as for 100 homes in the Whakatne district in the Bay of Plenty region.
There are many schools and local government facilities all across North Island and Auckland that have closed. People are also being asked not to travel if that's a possibility.
509 flights were canceled and this disrupted 10,000 international Air New Zealand customers. The national carrier added 11 extra domestic flights to its schedule to be able to help with the recovery efforts. The normal services are expected to resume on Tuesday.
This is the second notable weather event to strike Auckland and the North Island in just a few weeks. According to the authorities, the emergency and recovery response system has been taxed by the two major events.