Weather: Auckland Harbor Bridge warning issued to motorists ahead of storm looming for Anniversary weekend

MetService National weather: January 25th-27th.

Motorists are being warned that strong winds could force the closure of the Auckland Harbor Bridge as a storm approaches ahead of the city’s long weekend.

Winds of up to 110km/h are predicted, sparking the warning from Waka Kotahi to drivers. A strong wind watch will see an amber alert from 7am tomorrow.

“Motorists are urged to drive to the conditions, look out for the electronic message boards which will indicate lane closures and reduced speeds, or full bridge closure, and stay within their lane while traveling across the bridge,” the warning said.

“Drivers of high-sided vehicles and motorcyclists are advised to avoid the Auckland Harbor Bridge and use the Western Ring Route on State Highways 16 and 18. Waka Kotahi is working closely with MetService to monitor wind speeds with maintenance crews out on the network ready to react and close lanes on the bridge if wind gusts exceed threshold levels.

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“The safety of road users is our top priority and we won’t hesitate to reduce speeds, close lanes or close the bridge if necessary.”

The high winds could also cause delays or cancellations to public transport.

Heavy rain and strong winds are expected to hammer Auckland heading into the anniversary weekend from first light tomorrow morning, says MetService.

As large numbers of Aucklanders prepare to leave the city for holiday hotspots MetService is warning it could be so bad it might be worth delaying travel in the upper North Island.

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The forecaster has issued an orange heavy rain warning for Northland and Coromandel and a heavy rain watch for Auckland.

The Auckland region is also under a strong wind watch starting at 7am tomorrow.

The rain is expected to start later tonight and keep falling until Saturday.

MetService said the 15 hours of heavy rain laced with thunderstorms in Auckland could see severe gales in exposed places.

Holidaymakers heading to the storm-ravaged Coromandel Peninsula may want to rethink their plans, with a warning from MetService to expect heavy rainfall for 24 hours from 10am tomorrow. This could cause streams and rivers to rise rapidly, leading to surface flooding and slips making driving conditions hazardous.

The Coromandel Ranges are expected to get a dumping of 100mm to 140mm of rain.

In Northland, MetService expects up to 130mm of rain, especially in the east and north, and said thunderstorms are possible.

Peak rain rates between 10 and 20 mm per hour are expected.

“Heavy rain may cause streams and rivers to rise rapidly. Surface flooding and slips are also possible and driving conditions may be hazardous,” MetService warned.

After the deluge kicks off the long weekend, MetService meteorologist Paul Gorman said it isn’t likely the weather will get much better.

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Today, Auckland is expected to have a layer of cloud settle over most regions, with showers breaking through in the evenings.

The rain continues on Saturday, which won’t be welcome news for Elton John concertgoers in the largely unsheltered Mt Smart Stadium.

Sir Elton John performs at Orangetheory stadium in Christchurch.  Photo / George Heard
Sir Elton John performs at Orangetheory stadium in Christchurch. Photo / George Heard

Gorman said the weather is likely to be worse in Northland, but linger the longest in Auckland.

On Sunday, it’s a similar story, with showers throughout the region, finally easing in the evening.

Laneway festival-goers might be wise to pack a poncho, with showery weather expected in the area.

The wind is also expected to pick up on Monday, with brisk northeasterlies turning to gusts in exposed places.

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This may be another normally sunny weekend filled with camping trips and holiday getaways that will be ruined by the weather this summer.

Ex-cyclone Hale swept through the east coast of the North Island on the 9th of this month, and lingered for two days, causing widespread damage.

There was a mass exodus of holidaymakers as they fled the Coromandel and other popular holiday spots along the east coast.

Many trips were canceled as heavy rains belted the area, causing massive slips and widespread damage.

According to the regional monitoring network, Waikato Regional Council, the Coromandel received 800ml of rain from January 1 to January 11 – a new record.

Ex-Cyclone Hale caused significant damage along the east coast, leaving communities like Whitianga with a bill in the 'serious' six figures.  Photo / Thames-Coromandel District Council
Ex-Cyclone Hale caused significant damage along the east coast, leaving communities like Whitianga with a bill in the ‘serious’ six figures. Photo / Thames-Coromandel District Council

On its website, Thames-Coromandel District Council (TCDC) said Hale had “left significant damage along the east coast”, and that it expected the bill for repair costs to run into “serious” six-figure [numbers].

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It had earlier described the storm as a “once in 20 year event”.

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