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Cyclone Pam: worst of storm expected to hit around midday

Gisborne closes port, emergency services move into position.

Mon, 16 Mar 2015

After tracking 500km northeast of Northland on Sunday, Pam is forecast to pass along the east coast today and tomorrow.

The worst of the Pam is expected to hit Gisborne around midday as the storm passes 150km east of East Cape before moving away from the New Zealand coastline towards the Chatham Islands 

The town's port has been closed, along with three schools. More than 70 firefighters and 30 appliances have been moved into vulnerable North Island coastal areas in the lead-up to the storm, to provide extra support to local crews.

In a 6am update, The Ministry of Civil Defence & Emergency Management has activated the National Crisis Management Centre (NCMC). The response is being managed by several of the regional Civil Defence emergency Management Groups along the North Island’s east coast and the Chatham Islands. The NCMC is warning people should stay off beaches and out of coastal waters. 

Authorities warn that although Pam has been downgraded from a category five to category four cyclone, she still packs a punch.

Strong southeast winds and rain are expected over much of the North Island today, along with extremely large seas about the east coast.

Winds of up to 160km are expected around the eastern Bay of Plenty and northern parts of Gisborne. Gusts of that strength are likely to cause damage to trees and powerlines and could lift roofs and make for hazardous driving conditions, MetService warns.

Around 200mm of rain is expected about Gisborne (as of midnight their had been 70mm), the ranges of northern Hawkes Bay and eastern Bay of Plenty, with lesser but still significant amounts near the coast of northern Hawkes Bay and the hills and ranges further south.

Northland is expected to cop around 90mm of rain. Rivers and streams in these areas will rise rapidly, and localised surface flooding and slips are likely as well as hazardous driving conditions.

Auckland is expected to avoid the worst of the storm. 117km/hour winds overnight saw around 1500 customers lose power in pockets around the city, Vector says, but otherwise no damage was reported. 120km/hour winds are expected in the city today.

Winds of 155km/hour were recorded around Great Barrier overnight, but Civil Defence reports no major incidents.

 

MetService

Gisborne District Council has set up an emergency operation centre.

Hawke's Bay civil defence emergency group controller Ian Macdonald says people living or camping in coastal areas should move to higher ground.

Auckland is expected to get off comparatively lightly, with heavy rain and gusty winds up to 100km. Volvo Ocean Race organisers have delayed the departure of the six-boat round the world fleet from today until Tuesday at the earliest.  

Check out any time you like but you can never leave
The doors opened early for The Eagles concert at Mt Smart Stadium so the band hit the stage early, at 6pm, in a bid to beat the storm.

ABOVE and below: The storm hits Vanuatu (Unicef)

The category five Cyclone Pam (now downgraded to category four) hit Vanuatu on Friday and Saturday, bringing flooding and 250km/hour+ winds.

So far, there are eight confirmed deaths and unconfirmed reports of up to 44 fatalities. Six New Zealanders could not immediately be accounted for. Civil Defence Minister Nikki Kaye says communications infrastructure is down but the government hopes to know more about the missing Kiwis in the next six to eight hours.

Approximately 10,000 have been left temporarily homeless.

New Zealand has pledged an initial $1 million for Vanuatu and other Pacific Nations hit by the cyclone, and a RNZAF P3 Orion is assessing damage.

Positive for farmers
Federated Farmers Northland president Roger Ludbrook told Radio New Zealand he was hoping positives would outweigh the negatives and said the region was looking forward to a good dollop of rain.

"You have to take some precautions, and so I'd expect power cuts if the weather really does go crazy. Also if there is going to be excessive rain, you just need to be looking at your farms and working out, if you've got low-lying areas, you don't have cattle or sheep in those areas over the weekend and probably into Monday," he said.

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Cyclone Pam: worst of storm expected to hit around midday
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