Dozens of people had to be evacuated, schoolchildren were sent home and roads closed as heavy rain lashed Gisborne.
At least 30 families from nearby Tolaga Bay had to be evacuated yesterday afternoon after the rain led to flooding.
One man was forced to take refuge on his truck roof when floodwaters reached alarming levels.
Gisborne Civil Defence said dozens of people north of Tolaga Bay were evacuated as the Hikuwai River rose to around 12m, flooding across State Highway 35 and isolating them.
Civil Defence controller Jon Davies said up to 30 families in the Mangatuna, Wharekaka, Paroa and Mangaheia areas had been affected.
“There is extensive flooding across the [Gisborne] flats but as far as we know, houses are not endangered,” he said.
There had been at least two incidents where people driving through flooded roads had to be rescued, Mr Davies said.
He warned motorists to drive to the conditions.
“We have already had one truck stuck in the middle of a flooded road at Ngatapa requiring the occupants to sit on the roof to wait for help. In another instance, a car hit surface flooding at speed south of Tolaga Bay – causing it to flip and roll into the paddock.”
No one was injured.
Meanwhile, dozens of homes were left without power and rural schools had to be closed.
The area between Ruatoria and Tolaga Bay was the worst affected after more than 150mm of rain fell overnight, Mr Davies said.
“The Uawa River at Willow Flat, just north of Tolaga Bay, was close to nine metres late this morning and we are expecting it to top 11 metres with at least another 150mm of rain expected through until tomorrow morning.”
A number of rural schools were closed across the region and all of the children in the city who usually went home by rural bus were being sent home early in the afternoon.
Power company Eastland Network was working to restore power to homes around Gisborne city.
Several roads were closed at Tolaga Bay and in Ngatapa Valley, and more were expected to shut if the rain continued at the same level.
Mr Davies said Civil Defence would be keeping a close eye on some of the worst affected areas between Ruatoria and Tolaga Bay – where there had been more than 200mm of rainfall – for flooding overnight.
A severe weather warning was issued by MetService yesterday and was expected to be lifted late last night.
Forecaster Gerard Barrow said there would still be heavy rains in Gisborne today and also the possibility of thunderstorms in the area.
“At this stage the heaviest rains are going to ease by [today] but there will be showers in the afternoon and possibly some thunderstorms in isolated areas,” Mr Barrow said.
A temperature high of 17C is expected in the region today, with a low of 8C.
Police central communications said they had received several weather-related calls, but nothing serious.
“Right now there is still a lot of flooding and so people should be driving to the conditions.”
– NZHerald.co.nz with NZPA
Image – NZPA