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Thousands without power in Hawke's Bay as ex-tropical Cyclone Cook slams North Island's east coast

Ex-tropical Cyclone Cook is lashing the east coast of the North Island and will head quickly south as the night progresses. 

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These hardy surfers weren't going to let the big swell go to waste. Source: Supplied

9.20pm: The latest numbers from Unison show over 9000 customers are without power in the wider Hawke's Bay region.

9.10pm: A MetService spokesperson says Hawke's Bay is currently experiencing the worst of the weather with with wind gusts at Cape Kidnappers up to 150km/h and Napier airport experiencing wind gusts up to 100km/h.

High winds have also caused havoc across the Whakatane region.

The road between Whakatane and Ohope is closed.

Slips and power lines have blocked most roads in and out of the region.

8:55pm: Over 2000 homes are without power on Waiheke Island. According to Vector, 2027 homes are affected and have estimated power will be restored by 11:30pm tomorrow. 

8:47pm: Police are warning motorists to avoid driving across the Hawke's Bay and Gisborne / Tairawhiti regions due to being partially or completely blocked. They say most roads are affected by trees coming down. In Bayview, Napier there is a diversion in place on Main North Road because of a substantial slip. 

8:39pm: Thousands of homes are without power in Napier as Cyclone Cook continues to make its way south. According to Unison, 2404 homes are without power in Napier, 559 in Hastings and 492 in Rotorua. Power is expected to be restored between 9:00-10:00pm. 

8:24pm: Fire communications have begun receiving multiple weather related calls in the Hawke's Bay as Cyclone Cook makes its way south. Shift Manager Murray Dunbar told 1 NEWS trees and power lines have begun coming down and roofs have begun lifting off on sheds and properties as the winds ramp up.

8:11pm: Air New Zealand has cancelled all flights in and out of Rotorua, Tauranga, Hamilton, Blenheim, Nelson and Napier for the rest of the night. The airline has warned customers flight disruptions may continue throughout the weekend. 

7:52pm: According to Power Co, thousands of homes are without power due to high winds in Waihi, Tauranga, Te Puke and Papamoa. 

7:34pm: Whakatane District Council is urging locals to stay off the roads, particularly in coastal communities due to trees and powerlines that have fallen down. Extra pumps and generators are available to deal with any issues experienced in Whakatane's stormwater systems tonight. The council is warning heavy rain could cause surface flooding in low-lying areas. 

7:05pm: Roads have closed or remain closed in the Eastern Bay of Plenty. Statehighway 34 is closed at Otakiri between Edgecumbe and Te Teko because of fallen power lines. State Highway 30 between Thornton Road and Awakeri is also closed due to fallen power lines. Statehighway two near Pikowai will remain closed tonight because of a fallen tree and powerlines. If people are evacuating and they are east of Pikowai they can use State Highway two, 34 and 30. 

6.35pm: Power has been cut in Whakatane. The district council's public affairs manager confirmed the Whakatane urban area was without power, and wasn't sure how far the outage extended. High winds have ripped through the area and it's not known when crews can fix the outage, as there are safety issues.

6.30pm: Hawaiian Airlines will waive reservation change fees for customers traveling on its Auckland flights between April 13 and April 15 due to Tropical Cyclone Cook. Changes must be made prior to the departure of the originally scheduled flight for new travel on or before April 21. All change fees will be waived provided that original flights were ticketed on or before April 13, based on seat availability and there is no change to origin or destination.

6.10pm: 1 NEWS reporter says there are likely to be evacuations around the Edgecumbe township. He says wind gusts there are very blustery. 

5.55pm: A large chunk of hillside has come down at Omokoroa, 22km west of Tauranga. Residents are bracing for impact.

5.50pm: Cyclone Cook has largely left the Auckland region and, while there is still some rain and wind about, Auckland has escaped the worst of the weather system. Auckland Civil Defence Head of Emergency Management Operations Aaron Davis says the cyclone's track swung around to the east as it approached Auckland, largely heading away from the Auckland mainland.

5.20pm: Large swells are rolling in at Mt Maunganui as the low centre draws closer.

5.06pm: At the latest Civil Defence briefing in Wellington, it's been announced that the weather system is expected to make landfall near Tauranga between 7pm and 8pm. 

5.05pm: All Auckland weather warnings have been lifted. The NZ Fire Service received 32 flood calls, while the council took 240 emergency calls.

4.55pm: Coastal areas of eastern Coromandel Peninsula and Bay of Plenty may see large waves of five metres or more, storm surges near the centre of Cyclone Cook, coastal inundation and erosion.

4.50pm: Heavy rain has eased over Northland and the warning there is now lifted. Heavy rain further south should gradually ease from the north over the next 12 hours.

4.30pm: The centre of Cyclone Cook was about 100km east of Whitianga, in the Coromandel Peninsula, at 3pm. It's expected to make landfall over Bay of Plenty between Tauranga and Whakatane about 6pm today. It will then move southwards reaching Wellington or Wairarapa in the early hours of tomorrow morning.

The MetService updates the latest on ex-tropical Cyclone Cook, which is expected to strike early this evening. Source: 1 NEWS

Waikato River rises at Hamilton's Grantham Street carpark. Source: 1 NEWS

4.15pm: All lanes are now open through State Highway One in the Magamuka Gorge south of Kaitaia. SH10 near Kaeo is open after it was closed earlier due to flooding. Many travellers have had to rebook their flights following cancellations. Additional flights have been cancelled from Palmerston North, Blenheim, Gisborne, Rotorua, New Plymouth, Nelson and Napier.

4.05pm: Waikato District Council is strongly urging the public to stay at home tonight and only drive on the roads if it's absolutely necessary.

3.35pm: Heavy rain combined with strong winds and a powerful storm surge may cause landslips, fallen trees and power lines and inundate low-lying coastal areas as Cyclone Cook arrives late this afternoon and early evening. Thames-Coromandel District Council Mayor Sandra Goudie declared a Civil Defence emergency for the district. Civil Defence is advising against travel to the Coromandel until Saturday given the severity of the storm.

Civil Defence with a morning update on what steps people should take due to the bad weather. Source: 1 NEWS

3.23pm: 172kmh winds are being recorded at White Island, in the Bay of Plenty marine area.

3.20pm: One lane is now open after State Highway One closed in Mangamuka Gorge south of Kaitaia, because of a large slip. Water levels are receding now that 9am high tide has passed.

3.15pm: Airbnb have launched their urgent accommodation option for the upper North Island. This allows hosts to offer their properties for free in the affected area. Airbnb will waive the service fee that they normally charge hosts. The option applies from today until April 19 for properties between Whangarei and Taupo.

3.05pm: All ferry and train services in Auckland are running to schedule. There are some delays to bus services to and from the city due to congestion.

2.35pm: Low lying areas in Thames, Kuaotunu Beach, Onemana and Whiritoa, Tapu, Coromandel have been evacuated. Residents in Whangapoua, Kennedy Bay, Cooks Beach, Hahei and Colville, Matarangi and Kuaotunu have also been evacuated. Whitianga, Whangamata, Pauanui and Tairua are in the process of being evacuated.

2.26pm: Due to the extreme risk of storm surges and coastal inundation, ALL properties on West End Road, in Ohope must be evacuated. All beachfront properties on the seaward side of Pohutukawa Avenue, through to Te Akau Street, must be evacuated as well. Properties adjacent to the Maraetōtara Stream, Millers Stream and Wharekura Stream may also be vulnerable to storm surge travelling up the stream.

2.25pm: Ex-tropical Cyclone Cook is moving in from the north. 172kmh E'lys currently recording at White Island (Bay of Plenty marine area).

2.20pm: Auckland UPDATE - all power has been restored in New Lynn and Mangere. Civil Defence says while more traffic delays are likely in Auckland, the bridge is now less likely to close.

2.05pm: The defence force has been deployed. One unimog has been deployed to Thames, one unimog is going to Tairua, and the other to Whitianga. They'll be based at the fire stations and working with local fire crews. They'll be there for the duration of the storm. A helicopter that was planned to take off at midday couldn't take off due to the weather. No exact number of evacuations are known yet. They should know by 5pm. Warning anyone heading to the area to postpone any travel until tomorrow morning, once the storm has passed. All civil defence centres and evacuation community halls have had "a trickle" of people turn up.

1.49pm: Fourteen flights in and out of Wellington Airport have been cancelled today. Arrivals cancelled: Nelson (x1), Blenheim (x1), Picton (x1), Tauranga (x1), Rotorua (x1), Napier (x1). Departures cancelled: (Napier x2), Hamilton (x2), Rotorua (x1), Auckland (x1), Nelson (x1)

12.36pm: The Defence Force have put about 500 personnel, as well as aircraft and trucks on standby to help with the storm. 

12.25pm: Air New Zealand has suspended operations at Tauranga Airport until further notice. It expects to be unable to operate from a number of North Island airports as the weather situation progresses.