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Excessive Heat Warning

Gita to blast New Zealand with damaging winds, flooding rain

By Kristina Pydynowski, AccuWeather senior meteorologist
February 20, 2018, 3:14:56 AM EST

The northern South Island will bear the brunt of Gita as it slams across New Zealand with heavy rain and strong winds through Tuesday night.

Schools have already been closed along the West Coast, as campers are being asked to leave Marlborough, according to Radio New Zealand.

The Mayor of Christchurch declared a State of Emergency due to the impacts of Gita.

Despite Gita no longer being the monster it was when it left a trail of destruction from American Samoa to Tonga last week, damage and flooding remain concerns across New Zealand.

"Gita will still be a powerful storm as it blasts into New Zealand through Tuesday night, local time," AccuWeather Meteorologist Jake Sojda said.

The winds may be strong enough to cause tree damage and some power outages.

Rough seas will also get stirred up, creating dangerous conditions for boaters.

Gita 2.20 AM

Travel and daily routines can be impacted in Wellington and Christchurch.

Heavy rain streaming across Wellington to start Tuesday will give way to winds that can gust between 80 and 85 km/h (50 and 60 mph) early Tuesday night.

Christchurch will escape the strongest winds, but 50-100 mm (2-4 inches) of rain from Gita may trigger flooding in low-lying and poor drainage areas.

Travelers should prepare for disruptions, including flight and bus cancellations.

Tropical Cyclone Gita leaves trail of destruction from American Samoa to Tonga
New Zealand weather center
AccuWeather tropical cyclone center

West Coast, Nelson and Marlborough are expected to endure Gita's strongest winds and heaviest rain.

Rainfall on the order of 75-150 mm (3-6 inches) with locally higher amounts, especially in the mountains, will significant raise the risk for flooding. Landslips will also become a significant concern in the higher terrain.

"The ranges of West Coast will be more susceptible to flooding and slips due to recent heavy rain," Sojda said.

Westport and Anatori can be two of the hardest-hit communities with wind gusts strong enough to down trees and cause some damage to other structures. Residents may face prolonged power outages.

Winds from the northern West Coast to Nelson are expected to howl between 96-130 km/h (60-80 mph) with localized gusts to 145 km/h (90 mph) along the immediate coast.

Gita satellite

Gita was a severe tropical cyclone (the equivalent of a hurricane in the Atlantic or eastern Pacific oceans) when it passed south of New Caledonia on Friday night. (Image/NOAA)

"A significant storm surge and coastal flooding will also be a threat along the western coast, to the north of the storm track," Sojda said.

The most severe storm surge flooding may inundate Nelson and other communities around the Tasman Bay.

Interislander ferry had yet to cancel services for into Wednesday but warned of rough conditions, according to Radio New Zealand.

Anyone living in areas prone to flooding and slips should heed any evacuation orders that are issued.

Auckland and Southland will escape Gita's fury. In Auckland, gusty winds that should not cause damage will blow on Tuesday with showers set to move through in the afternoon.

Gita will race away from New Zealand by Wednesday. A weaker storm will spread rain from the South Island to the North Island Wednesday into Thursday.

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