As it happened: Roads closed, schools evacuated in thunderstorm-struck Hawke's Bay

A severe thunderstorm is moving through the Hawke's Bay, drowning the region in rain. A school has been evacuated and roads closed - and Civil Defence is issuing evacuation advice.

What you need to know:

  • Flash floods are hitting the region
  • At least five families have been trapped. Others have been evacuated in time
  • Roads and railways have been washed away
  • Heavy rain is expected until around midnight tonight

These live updates have now ended.

4:15pm – Blue Duck Station takes matters into its own hands after slips

Whanganui farmer Dan Steel says their power lines are down, water supply is affected and roads washed away.

“[We’ve] got precision helicopters flying over from Taranaki, they’re bringing four generators and some supplies so we’ve got about 100 people down on the station currently,” he told Newshub.

4:10pm – Civil Defence staff concerned by Eskdale river levels

Civil Defence group manager Ian Macdonald says they're keeping an eye on the Eskdale River, north of Napier.

“The rest of the rivers in the Hawkes bay are actually in pretty good condition we have no concerns. It’s only the Eskdale River which is quite a short and steep catchment.”

4.01pm - More rain forecast for Hawke’s Bay

MetService says more localised thunderstorms and downpours are possible for Hawke's Bay tonight.

Rain gauges in the region captured over 130 millimetres of rain on Thursday.

“There’s a few places up in the ranges that have reported 130, 140 millimetres and I have heard that there is a council rain gauge that recorded 55 millimetres in an hour,” MetService spokesperson Lisa Murray told Newshub.

2:58pm - SH5 Napier to Taupo and SH2 Eskdale to Tutira reopened

The NZTA is urging the public to drive carefully. Civil Defence is advising the public to avoid driving unnecessarily.

2:20pm – Photo shows the extent of flooding at an orchard in lower Esk Valley

1:54pm - Whanganui considers implementing flood protection barriers

Horizons Regional Council has announced on Twitter crews have been put on standby and the Kowhai Park flood barrier may potentially be put into operation.

1:20pm - Video shows raging power of river in flood

1:05pm - Civil Defence's evacuation check list

Hawke's Bay Civil Defence has put out a check list for people near the Esk River who are planning to self-evacuate their household and animals.

"Here is a check list of things you should consider before self-evacuating," it says.

"We will continue to provide updates so keep up to date with the latest information."

The list includes making a plan for pets, contacting loved ones and having essential items.

12:50pm - More road closures

The NZTA is warning of further road closures across the region. The Napier to Taupo road, State Highway 5, is closed after heavy rain caused slips and flooding.

The NZTA says that it is not clear when the Napier-Taupo Road will re-open. A detour route via Taupo and Palmerston North will add four to five hours to the journey.

Other road closures:

  • State Highway 45, between New Plymouth and Omata, due to a fallen tree
  • SH43, between Taumarunui and Whangamomona, is closed due to slips - the detour is via State Highway 3 and 4
  • Inland Hawke's Bay roads Makahu Road, Glengarry Road and Waipunga Road all closed due to slips or flooding

12:30pm - College closes, families evacuated

Students from Hukarere Girls College have been sent home for the day, NZME reports, and another 20 people have been evacuated from the Eskdale Holiday Park as a slow moving storm crosses over.

Shocking photos from the Blue Duck Station in Owhango show cars stuck in mud on roads covered in slips.

"It's worse than Bola, and we were here for Bola," Eskdale Holiday Park owner Daniel Gale said.

"It's still bucketing down and the camp is under water basically."

12:00pm - State Highway 5 cut off

The Napier to Taupo road, State Highway 5, has already closed after heavy rain caused slips and flooding on Thursday morning.

As it happened: Roads closed, schools evacuated in thunderstorm-struck Hawke's Bay
Photo credit: New Zealand Transport Agency

11:30am - MetService issues warning

MetService is warning residents to take shelter and stay away from windows with some places seeing more than 50mm of rain in an hour.

The weather forecaster warns people in the area to take shelter away from windows, and move cars under cover.

"Secure any loose objects around your property," an online warning reads.

"Check that drains and gutters are clear; Be ready to slow down or stop, if driving.

"During and after the storm, you should also beware of fallen trees and power lines [and] avoid streams and drains as you may be swept away in flash flooding."