Cyclone Gabriel hits Auckland as homes evacuated, flights disrupted, power outages

WELLINGTON — Residents of New Zealand’s largest city Auckland and surrounding areas have been told to prepare for more heavy rains, flooding and high winds, with some homes evacuated as Cyclone Gabriel approaches the country’s coast.

Gabrielle is currently located 200 kilometers (125 miles) northeast of Auckland and is expected to approach the east coast within the next 24 hours.

“Unfortunately, we expect the effects of Cyclone Gabriel to get worse before it gets better,” said Rachel Kelleher, Auckland Emergency Management Deputy Controller on Monday.

“It’s not the time to be complacent,” she added.

The cyclone is the second major weather event to hit Auckland and the upper North Island in just a few weeks. Last month, Auckland and its surrounding areas were hit by record rainfall, causing flooding and killing four people.

New Zealand Prime Minister Chris Hipkins on Monday announced a NZ$11.5 million ($7.25 million) package to help community groups such as food banks and groups affected by the floods.

On Monday, many schools and municipal facilities in Auckland and the northern North Island were closed, and people were asked to avoid traveling as much as possible.

A state of emergency is in place in Auckland and at least six other regions. About 50 apartments in Auckland have been evacuated because a 100-year-old steel tower is in danger of collapsing.

Further evacuations have been ordered in beachside communities on the east coast ahead of storm surges expected early Tuesday morning.

Cyclone Gabriel
Cyclone Gabriel formed in Arkless Bay, Auckland, New Zealand on February 13, 2023, causing high tides. (John Longson/Twitter @JohnLongson/via Reuters)

46,000 homes were without power, mobile phone reception was unstable in some areas, trees were uprooted and roofs were uplifted.

Public transport has been disrupted with ferries, buses and trains canceled or cut short.

Air New Zealand has canceled flight 509 and said it will resume operations on Tuesday when the weather is expected to improve.

Police said they were trying to locate the person on the boat near Great Barrier Island this morning after responding to reports that the boat was in distress.

“Police Maritime Forces, assisted by Eagle, have attempted to approach the boat all morning, but the situation is difficult and no one has been found at this stage,” the statement said.

Metservice meteorologist Georgina Griffiths said overnight that Auckland and Great Barrier Island could see heavy rain and winds.

“Parts of Auckland that have not yet seen difficult wind conditions are expected to see strong winds overnight,” she said.

“Storm tide is still coming and could peak at 2am high tide east of Auckland.”

She added that localized landslides and surface flooding are expected given Auckland is already saturated.

($1 = 1.5863 New Zealand Dollar)

Lucy Kramer