Exciting waiting while the ex-cyclone passes over the North Island

Authorities have declared a precautionary state of emergency in New Zealand’s northernmost region as the remnants of a tropical cyclone hit the country.

Gabrielle was downgraded from a Category Two to a Category One storm before making landfall, but it is still forecast to bring severe weather.

Power cuts have been reported and roads have been closed due to flooding.

A few weeks ago, parts of the North Island were severely damaged by flooding.

Northland then also declared a state of emergency over fears of unprecedented rain, but those concerns turned out to be unfounded.

This time, however, gale force winds and heavy rains have been reported, leaving thousands of people without power. They have been warned it could be days before power is restored.

“This is a serious event for New Zealand,” meteorologist Georgina Griffiths told Radio New Zealand.

People who knew their homes were prone to flooding were advised to evacuate before the storm arrived.

Declaring a state of emergency gives local authorities more power to respond to dangerous situations and allows them to limit travel and provide assistance.

A man piles up sandbags to protect a warehouse ahead of Cyclone Gabrielle's arrival in Auckland, New Zealand

A man piles up sandbags to protect a warehouse ahead of Cyclone Gabrielle’s arrival in Auckland, New Zealand

Further south, in the country’s largest city, Auckland, authorities have issued a red weather alert, meaning severe storms, flooding and landslides are possible.

Schools have again been advised to move learning online and emergency shelters have been set up in preparation for the storm. Trains have been suspended and the Harbor Bridge, an important transport link, has been temporarily closed.

Air New Zealand, the country’s flag carrier, has announced it will cancel several long-haul international flights, Tasman and Pacific Island flights and domestic flights to and from Auckland scheduled for Monday, when the worst of the weather is expected.

Thousands of homes were damaged in January’s record-breaking rainfall, which caused severe flooding and landslides, and four people were killed.

Residents are on high alert as they have been warned that the drenched soil and weakened infrastructure from the recent deluge could make parts of the city more likely to flood again.

They have used sandbags to try to protect people’s homes and long queues have formed at supermarkets after authorities advised people to have enough supplies for at least three days in case the situation worsens.

“The water was up to the knees,” a man who was filling sandbags and a public facility told Television New Zealand. “You never know what’s going to happen in the next two days.”

“We had the creaking behind us overflow, and it was pretty much against our back fence,” said another.

New Zealand Prime Minister Chris Hipkins has asked people to take severe weather warnings seriously and make sure they are prepared.

“Central and local government have worked closely together to prepare for this event and also to ensure that the first lessons to be learned from our response from a week or two ago can be incorporated into this one.”

Thousands of people are said to be without power already on the Coromandel Peninsula, where major roads connecting mainly rural communities are closed or under warnings.

Residents in vulnerable areas there and in Tairāwhiti have also been urged to seriously consider evacuating.

The latter region, which lies on the east coast of New Zealand, is particularly prone to flooding.

Cases where residents of small towns and settlements have had to band together to protect each other and their property have become more common in recent years.

The tiny Australian territory of Norfolk Island, which lies north of New Zealand, had a lucky escape after the storm’s most destructive winds bypassed it.

Norfolk Island emergency inspector George Plant told ABC News there were some emergency calls but that an initial assessment suggests the damage was “manageable.”

“We feel very lucky as a community that we didn’t get the full brunt of what Gabrielle had to offer,” said resident Hannah Taylor.

“If she had moved a little bit south, we would have seen a lot more damage.”

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