MetService is warning Cyclone Cook will be the worst to hit New Zealand since 1968, saying the combination of severe winds and rain could have devastating effects.
Travellers are urged to stay home.
There are warnings for coastal areas, which will be at risk of 6m swells - and possible landslips. Aucklanders are warned to prepare for the worst.
A boil water notice has been issued for the following eastern Bay of Plenty areas due to risk of contamination from flood waters:
- Te Mahoe
- Rangitaiki Plains (including Te Teko/Mapou, Edgecumbe, Awakeri, Braemar, Onepu, Otakiri and Thornton).
What you need to know:
- The Defence Force has put 500 staff and aircraft and trucks on stand-by for the response.
- Low-lying areas of the Coromandel are being evacuated over fears of storm surge.
- SH10 and SH1 are now open.
- Air New Zealand says conditions could cause significant disruptions to flights. Passengers should check their flight status online. Fare flexibility is being offered to those who no longer wish to travel.
- Auckland Civil Defence is warning people to postpone travel on Thursday afternoon - ahead of Easter Weekend - when Cook is expected to hit between noon and 6pm Thursday evening.
- NZTA warns the Harbour Bridge may close if winds reach the predicted speeds of 130-160km/hr. More information here
- A state of emergency has been declared by the Thames-Coromandel District Council, and evacuations are underway in low-lying areas. Slips have closed SH25 between Thames and Coromandel township. Civil Defence is encouraging those in low-lying areas to prepare for flooding and to self-evacuate.
- More than 200 schools and early learning centres are closed on Thursday. They are located in the Coromandel, eastern Bay of Plenty, Franklin, Great Barrier and Waiheke Island. The full list of closures can be found here.
- SH2 at Edgecumbe is closed because of flooding. Whakatāne district residents are ready to evacuate if it gets worse in the area.
Be aware that this is a very significant event and is likely to produce widespread flooding, slips and wind damage, including to powerlines and may even lift roofs. Driving conditions are likely to be hazardous, so take extra care on the roads, and even consider altering Easter travel plans.