Severe weather: Northland and Gisborne battered overnight, forcing people out of homes, roads closed

Wild weather battered the North Island overnight, with thunderstorms and severe rain severely flooding the town of Whangarei and forcing residents out of homes in the Gisborne region.

MetService had warned of the harsh weather, with severe thunderstorm and heavy rain warnings in place for Northland until Saturday morning.

One resident told Newshub the entire town basin of Whangarei and many businesses were flooded overnight.

Lemons Hill.
Lemons Hill. Photo credit: Facebook/Bliss McCaw- Ball
Flooding in Whangarei.
Flooding in Whangarei. Photo credit: Newshub

"It has rained non-stop since yesterday and if the weather continues as forecast with rain for the next few days, Northland could see a repeat of the great July 2014 flooding."

Footage showed water running like a river through the Riverside BP service station at 7pm Friday and down residential streets.

Flooding was ankle-deep at the Turkuaz Cafe and roads were seen completely submerged, blocking motorists.

Flooded fields in Northland.
Flooded fields in Northland. Photo credit: Newshub

Two welfare centres were set up at Mile Bush Rd in Tikipunga, and at the Onerahi Community Hall in Whangarei.

Murray Soljak from Northland Civil Defence told Newshub emergency services had a "very busy Friday night".

Northland Fire and Emergency received more than 200 callouts to help motorists and residents manage encroaching waters.

Whangarei flooding.
Whangarei flooding. Photo credit: Facebook/ Denham Stuck, Newshub

"The Far North had rain consistently and the heaviest rain through the day yesterday and then Whangarei got a very, very intense burst last night. So across the whole region, there will be damage to the road networks, there is surface flooding there will be washouts, there's definitely slips coming down and it will take some time to make a proper determination to see what's possible, what can be resolved quick and what will take a bit longer to do."

He said the main callouts were to floodwaters entering homes and helping motorists.

"We saw a number of cars go into floodwaters last night and the occupants needed to be rescued and it just would have been a better decision just not to travel."

Soljak says residents will be spending the weekend "taking stock of the damage" and is urging people to stay off the roads.

"Allow a bit more time for these to be coned off or marked in some way or cleared a little bit.  Please stay off the roads in darkness unless you absolutely need to and it's a matter of life or death really."

Police echoed the message.

"Heavy rain is currently affecting the Northland region and police ask that all motorists avoid travelling this evening, unless absolutely necessary. 

Road closures in Northland.
Road closures in Northland. Photo credit: Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency

"Several flood-affected roads have not been assessed at this stage. There are and will be road closures throughout most of the region."

They said the Far North is currently not accessible due to flooding and NZ Transport Agency has also advised parts of SH11 are closed until further notice.

SH11 is closed from Puketona to Kawakawa. 

"We also ask you to be kind and follow the instructions of the road crews to keep everybody safe. If they have closed the road it is for a very good reason and people should not try to drive through the closure point," Northland system manager Jacqui Hori-Hoult said.

North of Gisborne was also issued a heavy rain warning by MetService for Friday night. Tolaga Bay was severely hit by rain forcing residents to self-evacuate.

"Three houses at Mangatuna having self-evacuated and five more cut off, but safe for now," the Gisborne District Council told Newshub.

"Uawa Civil Defence Community Link members have established a base at Tolaga Bay Area School and been calling residents to warn them of the conditions."

They reported multiple slips on State Highway 35 and Civil Defence Emergency Management is urging people not to travel unless absolutely necessary.

Dave Wilson, the director of lifelines, says there is a lot of surface flooding throughout the district. 

"This is an unusual weather pattern for this time of year," he said. "Now is not the time to go sightseeing."