Batten down the hatches!

A major storm in the Coral Sea off Australia’s northeast coast is beginning to develop and is heading directly towards New Zealand’s largest city, Auckland. I’m becoming increasingly confident that a major sub-tropical cyclone will affect much of the North Island starting early on Saturday.   While the path of this weekend’s storm still isn’t 100% clear its development certainly is. There’s talk on the two main NZ weather forums (www.nzweather.net and weatherforum.org.nz ) that the air pressure could drop to record levels for northern New Zealand/Auckland. Isn’t it weird how we’re in the middle of winter yet we’re talking about a sub-tropical cyclone? It has all the potential – at this stage – to bring torrential rain to Northland, Coromandel Peninsula, Bay of Plenty and East Cape with severe gales for some regions too. Winds possibly gusting as much as 180km/h may affect exposed regions such as Northland, Coromandel, Eastern Waikato and the Hauraki Gulf. As I said before, the air pressure looks like it will plummet into the 960’s (hPa). Not only is that extremely rare but it may also break records. Weather enthusiasts on the above forums are searching through data to find what the record figures are. Low air pressure, combined with big seas and strong winds, could also help create one of the biggest storm surges seen in the upper North Island for several years. If this prediction eventuates we could see storm surges flooding low lying eastern coastal areas from Northland to Auckland and across Coromandel and Bay of Plenty. It may also pose a serious risk for low lying areas around the Firth of Thames which is particularly vulnerable to northern storm surges. But lets not panic just yet! At the time of writing this the storm is still over 24 hours away from landfall – and even the slightest movement could have dramtic changes to our weather. One positive, for those worried about the storms potential destruction, is that there’s no blocking high pressure system to the east of the country therefore the storm, while intense, should be fast moving and will clear the country by Monday. In other words, it might not stick around long enough to cause major headaches. It’s a wait and see game for at least another 24 hours as computer models recalculate results with higher confidence levels and while my blog here starts to become out of date as we head into the weekend you’ll find all the latest weather news at the Radio Network’s    Weather Watch Centre   . Oh and for those of you who doubted me when I said this winter could end up a wet one – there’s another big rain storm expected to develop next week in the northern Tasman Sea travelling on a similar path except slightly further south. That could mean torrential rain over western and northern regions of both islands – there are a lot of North Islanders who are getting sick of the rain now. Three months ago it was too dry – what a weird year we’re having. Please send me updates at the Weather Watch Centre this weekend with weather conditions in your town, or photos of the storm. Have a great – and safe – weekend. Philip Duncan For the latest weather news keep up to date with The Radio Network’s new Weather Watch Centre or the NZ Herald weather section. Pictured above: A storm front hits Auckland City. Photo / Dean Purcell

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