Gisborne's Te Karaka residents told to 'evacuate now' as heavy rain batters North Island areas
People in a Gisborne town have been told to evacuate now due to rising river levels as heavy rain and thunderstorms batter parts of the countrys east coast. Northland, Tairawhiti/Gisborne and parts of Auckland saw the worst of the rain on Wednesday night, with the east coast of both Islands in the firing line on Thursday. The low pressure system is moving slowly across northern New Zealand, and is expected to bring a prolonged period of heavy rain and possible thunderstorms into the weekend. MetService has orange heavy rain warnings in place for Gisborne, Coromandel Peninsula, Bay of Plenty west of Te Puke, the Ruahine Range, Kaweka Forest Park, Hawke's Bay from State Highway 5 southwards and eastern Marlborough south of Ward. READ MORE: * MetService upgrades heavy rain warnings for parts of North Island north and east, Tairawhiti highway closed * Temperatures drop below zero across the country, with cold snap on the way * Heavy rain and gales set to hit upper North Island, with risk of thunderstorms Gisborne District Council asked people in Te Karaka to evacuate now just after 2pm on Thursday. The Waipaoa River had exceeded 7.5m and was expected to rise further. Crews were monitoring the stop banks, a text message to locals said. Hikuwai River water level at Willowflat was also at 7.9m and rising. Tairawhiti Emergency Management manager Ben Green said the orange heavy rain warning was expected to be raised to red this afternoon. Sustained rainfall was expected across the entire region until noon on Sunday. The water table is also very high in our region and this extra rain over the weekend will cause surface flooding. Our roads are still fragile and we ask everyone to please take extra care and drive to the conditions. Green said people should also watch for land movement, as there had already had been reports of landslips around the city. The Te Karaka evacuation centre is Te Karaka School. State Highway 2 north of Gisborne closed just before 10am between Whakarau Road, just south of Otoko, and Matawai due to flooding at the Waihuka Bridge. State Highway 35 north of Gisborne reopened this morning, following a night of heavy rainfall causing surface flooding and slips. Waka Kotahis Hawkes Bay and Tairawhiti journey manager Andre Taylor said while the road between Okitu and Ruatoria was now open, caution was still advised. With the rain weve had overnight, theres surface flooding and slips in places, and with more rain predicted today, road users need to drive to the conditions and expect the unexpected. He said people should avoid travel where possible, but if travelling he advised driving to the conditions, and keeping a safe distance between other motorists. We will continue to monitor the situation throughout the day and theres a possibility SH35 may need to close again. Taylor said while there had been heavy rain in Hawkes Bay, strong winds were the current concern. Please be careful if youre on the roads, slow down, especially if youre in a high sided vehicle or on a motorcycle. The orange heavy rain warning was in place for a long 75 hours, with 250 to 350mm of rain expected to accumulate about and north of Tolaga Bay on top of rain thats already fallen. About the ranges and further south 150 to 200mm of rain was forecast, with 50 to 100mm to fall about coastal areas south of Tolaga Bay. MetService meteorologist Andrew James said while the already waterlogged Gisborne was to get the largest amount of rain, easterlies would bring rain right down the east coast, all the way from Cape Reinga to Dunedin. Thunderstorms were also in the mix for eastern North Island areas, which would bring localised bursts of additional intensity to the rainfall. Given impacts for Tairawhiti/Gisborne in previous events and expected amounts of rainfall, our severe weather team are continually monitoring the situation and working closely with the council and hydrologists there. That orange warning could possibly be upgraded to a red warning if concerns grow, so stay up to date with MetService warnings, James said. The North Island as a whole would see the rain ease on Sunday, but sodden Tairawhiti/Gisborne still saw heavy rain through the morning, with the current warning running until noon on Sunday. It was expected to reach 17C in Auckland on Thursday, with a low of 12C. Hamilton would only reach 15C, and with a low of 11C. In Wellington, the high for the day was 15C with a low of 12C forecast. Christchurch would see a high of 14C, with the low only 10C. Dunedin had the same high of 14C, but with a chilly low of 5C.