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Still recovering from floods, East Coast braces for Cyclone Fili

Storm-damaged Tairāwhiti and Hawke's Bay are bracing for the onslaught of more heavy rain tonight.

More than 40 roads are closed in the Tairāwhiti region due to slips and debris after the flooding last week.
More than 40 roads were closed in the Tairāwhiti region due to slips and debris after the flooding last month. Photo: Tairāwhiti Civil Defence

Cyclone Fili is expected to bring heavy rain and severe gales, and very large waves are also likely to affect northeast and eastern coasts of the North Island during Tuesday and Wednesday, MetService said in its severe weather warnings.

Fili is bearing down just three weeks after flooding on the east coast closed roads, broke bridges and inundated homes.

Residents are being told to prepare for more disruption and they have not even finished cleaning up from the last storm.

Tokomaru Bay, north of Gisborne, was maybe the worst hit.

Local hapū representative Lillian Te Hau-Ward helped lead the local Civil Defence response only weeks ago and called on residents to prepare again.

"We've got another weather event coming, it looks serious. Whānau, please prepare, make sure you've got all your devices charged, you've got food to survive over two to three days."

This is just after the highway north to Te Puia Springs - a crucial link in Te Tairāwhiti - reopened on Friday, following more than two weeks of closure.

Te Hau-Ward said it was still in a bad condition.

"There's a lot of stop-go because there's a lot of road works still occurring on that road. We've had a few serious dropouts where half of the road has actually gone."

Around 300mm of rain is expected over 24 hours - about three times more than the average April rainfall in the area.

Te Hau-Ward told Morning Report she had relocated into Tokomaru from her farm about 19km inland, where access was cut in the last flood.

Tairāwhiti was hit hard by flooding two weeks ago, splitting the bridge at Tokomaru Bay in two
Tairāwhiti was hit hard by flooding, splitting the bridge at Tokomaru Bay in two. Photo: ATS Engineering & Network Solutions/Supplied

Further south in Wairoa, Federated Farmers Wairoa branch chairman Allan Newton said rural bridges leading to the tiny community of Ruakituri were unusable and unsafe, meaning they have to take huge detours to get into Wairoa for supplies.

This time, Newton was hoping for the best, but thinking about the worst.

"We're hoping like hell that this weather will deviate a little bit out to sea, but we'll possibly get 300mm in the next two days, which could be disastrous again for a lot of people. It won't take much to wet the ground and get it soaked again."

The cyclone is expected to hit Hawke's Bay more than last month's storm, especially south of Wairoa towards Napier.

The region's civil defence head Ian Macdonald said there was heavy rain, strong wind and big swells on the way and they could cause damage.

"We think there's likely to be some power outages and also damage to roads. It's entirely possible that some of those vulnerable roads such as State Highway 2 through to Wairoa will be impacted over Wednesday."

He had clear advice for Hawke's Bay residents.

"If you live close to a waterway, or water that floods or ponding, then you should be prepared to evacuate. Particularly this is going to impact on the rural areas, so we're really encouraging farmers to move stock to high ground and equipment to high ground as well."

Tairāwhiti still has around 30 roads cut off by the recent storm.

The local civil defence team said any further rain would have an impact on the roading network.

Waka Kotahi central North Island regional manager maintenance and operations Jaclyn Hankin said contractors would be working hard, doing what they could to keep the state highway network safe and open.

"However, it may pay for those areas worst impacted by last month's significant weather event, in particular, to prepare for the possibility of further road closures and plan ahead to ensure they have everything they need," she said.

Coromandel civil defence controller Garry Towler said the big concern on the Coromandel Peninsula was the wind which could cause power cuts, coastal damage and slips, and topple trees.

"From dark tonight, stay off the roads, because they're dangerous," he said. Visitors unfamiliar with the local roads were already arriving for the school holidays, and needed to take care.

NIWA meteorologist Chris Brandolino said the path of the cyclone had shifted slightly east. While Northland and Auckland would get slightly less intense rainfall and wind, Gisborne through to Hawke's Bay was still in line for the worst of the weather.

source: https://www.rnz.co.nz/news/national/465105/storm-damaged-tairawhiti-and-hawke-s-bay-brace-for-cyclone-fili