Residents in Australia’s Norfolk Island and in New Zealand are bracing for heavy rain and gales over the weekend from Cyclone Gabrielle, with authorities also warning of hazardous surf conditions and strong winds along Australia’s east coast.
Australia’s weather bureau yesterday upgraded the tropical cyclone to a category 3 storm that could generate winds of up to 159kph and gusts up to 224kph.
“It is looking like making a direct hit at Norfolk Island,” Australia Bureau of Meteorology forecaster Jonathan Howe said during a television interview. “We might see the centre of the tropical cyclone pass directly over Norfolk Island.”
Norfolk Island, an Australian territory 1,500km east of Sydney, covers about 3,400 hectares in the Pacific Ocean, between New Caledonia and New Zealand.
The island’s 2,200 residents, many descended from British sailors who mutineed on the HMS Bounty in the 18th century, have begun to fuel up emergency power generators and tie down loose outdoor equipment and objects, emergency management controller George Plant told a reporter.
“This is probably the worst one we’ve seen for a long time,” he said.
Australia’s mainland is not likely to be significantly affected, although some eastern coastal areas could experience large waves and strong winds.
In New Zealand, upper North Island regions including Auckland are preparing for further bad weather, two weeks after the country’s largest city was hammered by historic levels of rain that killed four people and caused widespread flooding.
“The ground will be sodden and very wet, which will contribute to the likelihood of trees falling from that heavy rain, and the combination of strong winds,” New Zealand MetService forecaster David Miller told Radio NZ.
Authorities urged residents to prepare bags with essential supplies, food and water to last three days, and said power cuts could affect automated cash machines.
Gabrielle is likely to make landfall on New Zealand’s North Island from tomorrow through Tuesday.
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