NEW ZEALAND— Heavy rain warnings have been upgraded to red for the Wairoa District and Gisborne, with downpours and gales forecast to lash the eastern North Island as Cyclone Fili closes in.

14731855 - dark grey city streets during heavy rainPhoto: 123RF

MetService has issued severe weather warnings for the Bay of Plenty and Gisborne regions with Cyclone Fili expected to track southeastwards across the east of the North Island on Wednesday, then move away from the country on Thursday.

Wairoa District and the Gisborne region were expected to get 200-300mm of rain expected over 24 hours starting around 10pm tonight.

Rainfall could reach peak rates of 15-25mm per hour while levels of 35-50mm per hour are possible in some areas tomorrow afternoon.

Heavy rain is expected to cause dangerous river conditions while significant flooding and slips may lead to road closures and the potential isolation of some communities.

A strong wind warning is also in place for both the Wairoa District and the Gisborne region from Wednesday afternoon with south to southwesterlies gusting up to 120km/h in exposed places.

MetService warn strong winds could damage trees, powerlines and unsecured structures.

Wairoa considers state of emergency

Wairoa mayor Craig Little said authorities were considering calling a state of emergency in advance of the storm expected to hit the region.

There’s a red rain warning in place for the district in Northern Hawke’s Bay, as well as Tairāwhiti.

Up to 350 millimetres of rain is expected in the Wairoa district in just over 24 hours.

Little told Midday Report the state of emergency could be called as early as this afternoon.

Travel alert

Transport Agency Waka Kotahi is asking people in Tairāwhiti and Hawke’s Bay to avoid travel from late Tuesday until early Thursday.

The ground in the regions is still saturated from the big weather event just three weeks ago and Waka Kotahi says it might have to close highways.

It is urging people who were worst impacted last time, particularly around Wairoa, Tokomaru Bay and Te Puia Springs to prepare for the possibility of further road closures and to get everything they need now.

If people must travel, Waka Kotahi says people should slow down and increase following distance between vehicles.