Cyclone Gabrielle: Woman, children lucky to be alive after tree falls on house

Cyclone Gabrielle has whipped up huge swells in the upper North Island today and high winds have forced trees onto power lines, leaving around 50 thousand homes without electricity.

Severe weather warnings remain in place for the North, Coromandel, the East Coast all the way to Hawke's Bay, and Taranaki.

Only parts of Auckland have suffered substantial damage so far, but residents are being warned not to get complacent as tonight will be the big test

Coastal properties in Ruakākā have been completely flooded as relentless rain battered the region. 

The power of the storm has flattened fences and forced boats onto roads, as well as swallowing endless farmland.

The Te Hihi stream was more like a raging river

Fire and Emergency responded to hundreds of calls, one of which was a fallen tree which toppled onto Jan-Marie Dephof's house. 

"About 1:30 this morning, we heard a really loud crash, smash - it sounded like a truck flew through the house," said Dephof.

She was home with four children at the time and subsequently left in the dark without power.

She considers herself lucky to be alive. 

"The car was holding the tree up from going any further into the house," added Dephof

Lynda Deacon and Brian Moffat are also without power and were isolated overnight.

The road to their Parua Bay property - is blocked by slips, surface flooding, and downed trees.

They've been getting by with meagre supplies.

"We've got a small generator, we've got solar charging batteries," said Moffatt

To make matters worse, their home flooded at high tide.

"We've had water in here before - but not to this extent," said Deacon. 

Cyclone Gabrielle flooded the whole of their lounge, right into the spare room.

Power outages have swept right across the region impacting at least 28 thousand households in Northland.

"We haven't seen damage like this since Cyclone Bola in the late 80s," said NorthPower CEO Andrew McLeod. 

A soup kitchen has been set up to feed crews working around the clock. 

McLeod warned the damage is so widespread there won't be a quick fix for everyone. 

"Just got to prepare for long-term power outages. We don't like to say this, we always like to get people back on the same day. But the reality here - it could be several days," said McLeod. 

Earlier today, as many as 40 Vodafone cell sites were down in Northland, with many located in rural areas, where access is already limited.

Meanwhile, Waka Kotahi is urging people to take extra care on the roads with flooding, slips, and fallen trees closing highways across the region and causing delays.

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