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Ex-Tropical Cyclone Cook slams into New Zealand after damaging Vanuatu and New Caledonia
Updated 14/4/17 21.40 with new information
The remains of Tropical Cyclone Cook arrived in New Zealand this evening about 18.30NZST, making landfall between Tauranga and Whakatane in the middle of the Bay of Plenty coastline. The national weather service MetService is saying the worst of the weather will be between early evening and first light tomorrow.
TC Cook passed just west of Vanuatu on Saturday night 8/9 April bringing wind gusts to 130km/h and leaving the island sodden and damaged but otherwise largely unscathed. The main damage was to crops and infrastructure, especially on the island of Efate. It was at Category 2 at that time and rapidly intensifying. [More: ABC.]
It moved SW and crossed New Caledonia on Monday afternoon 10 April at Category 3 with wind gusts to 180km/h and bringing up to 350mm of rain to the west coast and over 400mm in 24 hours at Thio on the east coast, where Cook made landfall. Four people were injured and one died in the cyclone. Reports said that there was major damage to crops as well as damage to minor roads and some buildings. Flooding occurred along the east coast of Grand Terre, the main island, and a number of hourses were damaged in Lifou, in the Loyalty Islands off the east coast. Isolated tribes of the communes of Canala and Kouaoua, on the central eastern coast where Cook made landfall, were severely impacted. Floodlist gives a technical account, and has an impressive image of the cyclone from NASA-NOAA’s Suomi Satellite taken one hour before landfall. [More: ABC]
TC Cook then curved southeastwards towards New Zealand, and while its movement out of the tropics lost it the Tropical Cyclone moniker, it still retained the punch of a Category 1 cyclone with winds up to 150km/h near its centre. It also moved into an area of enhanced moisture, brought down from the tropics by the system that gave SE Australia exceptionally cold weather on Monday 10 April. The now tropical depression, still called "Cyclone Cook" by the Kiwis who call a spade a spade, retained a low central pressure of around 985hPa and hurricane-force winds until it made landfall in New Zealand this evening.
Emergency services and the population were well prepared, with MetService saying they had not seen a storm like Cyclone Cook since the one in 1968 that sunk the Wahine, killing 52 passengers. A feel for the lead-up to Cook's arrival is given in this Radio NZ article. Local media have given the event saturation coverage, and Civil Defence, MetService and local councils used Facebook extensively to spread information. The advice from emergency services has been to cancel any planned Easter holiday arrangements and stay home.
Major rain events since the start of April, including a lashing from the remnants of TC Debbie last week, have given all of the North Island and the northeastern half of the South Island at least 200mm of rain with over 300mm in many areas. The ground is saturated and rivers already running high. With the same broad area under threat, the major concerns were heavy rain with widespread flooding, landslips and uprooted trees in addition to hurricane-force winds and high seas on top of a storm surge, forecast to be up to 2.5m above normal sea level.
As at 23.00EST tonight, hundreds of Kiwis were taking shelter in welfare centres and 500 military were on standby. Most low-lying areas had been evacuated well in advance. Cook had moved into the North Island Central Plateau heading for Wellington early Friday and the Christchurch area by midday. The ex-cyclone tracked a little east of its expected path, letting Auckland off lightly with little more than a good blow and some heavy rain.
In the Bay of Plenty area, where Cook made landfall, many roads were closed by downed trees and powerlines, flooding, landslips and strong winds, and driving anywhere was extremely hazardous. Tauranga recorded 64mm in 12 hours to this evening. Some homes were flooded or hit by falling trees, but the feared coastal flooding did not occur. Farther south, 20,000 properties around Hawke's Bay and Rotorua were without power and many roads, including three state highways, were blocked.
From other sites :
Wrap-ups from Radio NZ, The Guardian and ABC News
MetService's Facebook post showing ex-TC Cook's track
From Radio NZ, a live blog through the day*, and their What you need to know summary