Wairoa mayor Craig Little is considering declaring a local State of Emergency hours before the predicted heavy rainfall of ex-Tropical Cyclone Fili begins to be dumped on the region.

The northern Hawke’s Bay district, along with parts of neighbouring provinces Poverty Bay and the East Coast, were badly damaged by several days of torrential downpours late last month.

The large rainfall led to a myriad of slips and drop-outs that closed roads – some of which are still closed – as well as evacuations of flooded-in residents, and even the destruction of at least one home due to surging floodwaters.

Heavy rain and wind warnings have been issued for the regions ahead of the remnants of Fili hurtling towards the eastern coastline of the North Island.

Talking to the Herald between briefings over the weather situation, Little said council officials were this afternoon considering declaring an early State of Emergency.

“It is due to what we have already had [weather-wise],” Little said.

“Our biggest concern is we already have one bridge out, other roads are still down to single lanes … if we get hit twice [as feared] it could be catastrophic.

“We are hoping for the best … but preparing for the worst.”

The ongoing road damage in the Wairoa district includes the closure of Te Reinga Bridge.

The bridge has been closed since April 5 after “significant” structural damage was discovered.

Wairoa District Council officials say the bridge is currently “unusable to any form of traffic, including pedestrians”, with two of the bridge piers having subsided so much that it has “compromised its structural integrity, placing the bridge in a high-risk and danger category”.

Repairs could take up to six months.

When asked if he personally supported moving the Wairoa district into an early State of Emergency before the ex-tropical cyclone, Little replied: “I think so.

“I am not one to cry wolf early or panic … but if we are getting the intel [about the weather] then you have to listen.”

Discussions this afternoon on the subject were being carried about between mayors in the Hawke’s Bay region and also Gisborne, as well as local Civil Defence officials.

He urged residents to be prepared by ensuring they had supplies, and also to be ready in case they needed to be evacuated. Farmers were also urged to ensure they moved stock away from low-lying areas if possible.

Gisborne District Council earlier today issued a red warning, including “heavy rain and severe gales” and “very large waves and coastal inundation”.

“A significant heavy rain event is expected for the Wairoa district and Gisborne where red warnings for heavy rain are now in force.

“People in these areas can expect dangerous river conditions and significant flooding.

“Slips and floodwaters are likely to disrupt travel, some roads may become impassable possibly isolating communities, and power outages are also likely.”

Great Barrier Island, Hawke’s Bay, Coromandel Peninsula, Bay of Plenty, Rotorua and Northland east of about Kaikohe all remain under an orange heavy rain warning.

Gisborne can expect between 200 and 300mm of rain from 10pm tonight until 10pm tomorrow, with up to 35 to 50mm/h of rain likely in some parts of the region on Wednesday afternoon.

While Wairoa will get even more soaked with 250 to 350mm of rain likely to fall from 1am on Wednesday until 4am on Thursday. It will be the hardest hit late Wednesday afternoon and evening with between 35 and 50mm/h of rain possible.

The rain is expected to cause dangerous river conditions and significant flooding. Slips and floodwaters could cause havoc to the roads and possibly isolate some communities.

There are fears that some of the damage from the recent flood-related damage – especially on the East Coast – could take up to a year to fix.

There are also orange wind warnings in place for Auckland, Great Barrier Island, Coromandel Peninsula, Bay of Plenty, Rotorua, Gisborne, Hawke’s Bay and southeast Taupo including higher parts of the Desert Road.

In a message to people in the Poverty Bay and East Coast, Tairāwhiti Civil Defence said the heavy rain forecast to hit late on Friday night would add “to the already saturated land, it’s important that you’re prepared”.

“Cyclone Fili is moving quickly and is expected to be a significant weather event. The rainfall amounts are still a little uncertain but any further heavy rain on top of what we’ve already had will make an impact, especially to our road network.”

It’s checklist for residents urged people to be ready, have enough food for up to three days, have alternative lighting and means of cooking, an emergency plan and a first aid kit.

The Gisborne District Council has also said its roads are already “still fragile in places and extreme care is required”.

Late last month, the leader of a roading crew spoke of the perilous work environment of road workers trying to connect East Coasters with Gisborne; including the ever-present threat of boulders, trees and other slips coming down on them while they work around the clock.

Tairāwhiti Contractors’ managing director Kat Kaiwai opened up about the challenges, and dangers, facing her crews who have been working tirelessly on the roading network for the past week.

“Everything all the time is pretty much a close call,” Kaiwai told the Herald.

“It is [dangerous] for all of the crews … for those who are working in the river, the ones who are going out doing inspections. It is everywhere.

“You have risks of slips coming down on top of you, risks of boulders coming off bluffs falling on top of you, trees which are already hanging coming down on top of you, risks of the road [going] out from underneath you …”

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