Civil Defence says information 'was out there' after storm ripped through parts of North Island, cutting power and causing damage

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1 NEWS | NZN

New Zealand Civil Defence say their response was well-handled, after yesterday's storm left thousands of homes without power.

John Dragicevich, Emergency Management Director spoke with media today.
Source: 1 NEWS

Emergency Management Director for Civil Defence, John Dragicevich, said he felt the message for residents to be ready and prepared "was out there and could be heard if people were willing to access their social media, their radio, or turn on the TV," Mr Dragicevich said.

However, with cyclone force winds as high as 213km/h striking Auckland overnight, questions are being asked about whether forecasters and authorities were caught unprepared.

The wild weather cut power to more than 100,000 homes in the Auckland region, disrupted traffic lights, rail services and airline flights and caused widespread damage.
The extent of the damage caught many by surprise.

But while forecasters had expected damaging winds and power cuts, the ferocity of the gales and their direct hit on Auckland did catch authorities by surprise, WeatherWatch says.

It said MetService had warned last night that Auckland could be hit by 120km/h winds, while WeatherWatch itself had earlier warned at 2pm that gales were likely to cause power cuts and topple trees.

"So yes, forecasters did know strong gales, potentially damaging, were coming," the forecaster said this morning. 

"However, no, the actual forecasts did not talk of such strong and damaging winds getting to hurricane force and up around the 200km/h mark."

WeatherWatch head forecaster Philip Duncan said the winds had become extra strong because a low coming out of the Tasman Sea had been fuelled by the powerful Antarctic southerly sweeping the country and "roaring up behind it".

And while the powerful winds were limited to a small area, this happened to be centred on Auckland.

Waikato, to the south, and Northland, to the north, were not badly affected by contrast, "so it was really the wind tunnel effect through Auckland coupled with a deepening low making landfall that helped ramp up these gales even further", Mr Duncan said.

Civil Defence Minister Kris Faafoi told reporters he was pleased with the warnings to the public.

"I think there was a fair bit of warning. I woke up [Tuesday] morning and the first thing I saw and heard was that the MetService had put out heavy rain and heavy wind warnings," he said.

"I think there was a fair bit of warning to people ... but I would say that you can't predict exactly what's going to happen."

He said additional staff had been quickly brought into Auckland afterwards to speed up the repairs of the power network.

The Emergency Management Director confirmed Vodafone's estimate in which 70 cellphone towers have been damaged by the turbulent weather as of 11.45am today. 

Mr Dragicevich added: "There has been learnings. There will be - guarantee - some learnings out of this event."


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