Tense anticipation as the former cyclone moves over the North Island

Authorities have declared a precautionary state of emergency in New Zealand’s northernmost region as the remnants of a tropical cyclone hit the country.

Gabrielle was downgraded from a Category Two storm to a Category One before it made landfall, but is expected to bring more severe weather.

Power outages were reported and roads were closed due to flooding.

Parts of the North Island were badly damaged by the floods just a few weeks ago.

Northland also declared a state of emergency over fears of unprecedented rainfall, but those concerns proved unfounded.

This time, however, gale-force winds and heavy rains were reported, leaving thousands without electricity. They have been warned that it could take days for power to be restored.

“This is a serious event for New Zealand,” meteorologist Georgina Griffiths told Radio New Zealand.

People who knew their homes were prone to flooding were advised to evacuate before the storm hit.

Declaring a state of emergency gives local authorities more powers to respond to dangerous situations and allows them to restrict travel and provide aid.

A man stacks sandbags to protect a warehouse ahead of Cyclone Gabrielle in Auckland, New Zealand

A man stacks sandbags to protect a warehouse ahead of Cyclone Gabrielle in Auckland, New Zealand

Further south, in the country’s largest city, Auckland, authorities have issued a red weather alert, meaning severe storms, flooding and landslides are possible.

Schools were again advised to move learning online, and emergency shelters were set up in preparation for the storm. Trains have been canceled and the Harbor Bridge, an important transport link, has been temporarily closed.

Air New Zealand, the country’s flag carrier, has announced it will cancel several long-haul international flights, Tasman and Pacific Island flights and domestic services into and out of Auckland scheduled for Monday when the worst of the weather is expected.

Thousands of homes were damaged by January’s record rains, which caused severe flooding and landslides, and four people died.

Residents are on high alert as they have been warned that soggy soil and infrastructure weakened by the recent flood could mean parts of the city will be more likely to flood again.

They have used sandbags to try to protect their homes and long queues have formed at supermarkets after authorities advised people to have enough supplies for at least three days in case the situation worsens.

“The water was knee-deep,” a man who was filling sandbags and a public facility told Television New Zealand. “You never know what’s going to happen in the next couple of days.”

“We had the squeak behind us breaking the levee, and it was basically against our back fence,” said another.

New Zealand Prime Minister Chris Hipkins has asked people to take severe weather warnings seriously and make sure they are prepared.

“Central and local government have been working closely to prepare for this event and also to make sure that the first lessons that can be captured from our response a week or two ago can be incorporated into this.”

Thousands are already said to be without electricity on the Coromandel Peninsula, where major roads linking mostly rural communities have either been closed or are on high alert.

Residents in vulnerable areas there and in Tairāwhiti were also urged to seriously consider evacuating.

The latter region, which is located on the east coast of New Zealand, is particularly prone to flooding.

Cases where residents of small towns and settlements have had to band together to protect each other and their property have become more common in recent years.

The tiny Australian territory of Norfolk Island, which lies north of New Zealand, had a lucky escape after the storm’s more destructive winds bypassed it.

Norfolk Island emergency controller George Plant told ABC News there were some 911 calls, but that an initial assessment suggests the damage was “manageable.”

“We feel very fortunate as a community to not have carried the full weight of what Gabrielle had to offer,” said resident Hannah Taylor.

“If it had moved a little further south, we would have seen a lot more damage.”

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