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Cyclone Gita - Latest tracking places both main NZ islands at risk

Contributor:
Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Cyclone Gita remains a Severe Category 3 tropical storm as it moves into the northern Tasman Sea, although it is likely to drop to a Category 2 cyclone this afternoon or tonight.

Central air pressure has risen to 973hPa, well up from when it dropped to 927hPa as a Category 5 storm earlier in the week, but remains very deep and stormy for a low pressure system in the Tasman Sea.

Gita remains an intense ans serious storm with a huge amount of wind and rain around it - and a lot of tropical air. New Zealand is directly in the path of Cyclone Gita and today the models started to agree on where it might make landfall, but we still need more time to confirm things.

GFS (American modelling) has been picking a South Island landfall for days, while ECMWF (European) has been picking the western side of the North Island from Wellington and Taranaki to Waikato. Today both of these trusted global sources have gone with the upper north west corner of the South Island. Of course this isn't yet locked in and with the storm still at least three days away this could definitely still change. However it does highlight that both main islands of New Zealand are at risk from flooding and wind damage. In the coming days we expect this to still shift around a bit northwards and southwards as it fine tunes the data.

Tracking from the Joint Typhoon Warning Center (US Government) says the gales will be expanding as it reaches New Zealand with their map showing gales are possible from as far south as Dunedin to as far north as Taranaki even Waitomo and Central Plateau. Yesterday Auckland and Northland were also exposed to damaging winds. Where the low makes landfall will help forecasters work out where the severe weather will most likely be. We need to lock in landfall before we can lock in precise severe weather risks and regions affected.

Computer models today say Cyclone Gita will have Category 2 strength when it arrives in New Zealand.

Gita has started the southerly turn to New Zealand which will take all weekend to stop the westwards movement. It's now tracking WSW.

There remains a lot of uncertainty about where the severe weather will be but all this past week guidance has suggested the upper South Island could experience very heavy rain. Damaging winds could extend for hundreds of kilometres from the centre of Gita. Because of this central tracking through New Zealand it means there could be issues in both islands. Travel delays are also likely, from motorists to air travellers to those crossing Cook Strait. Expect cancellations of some services early to mid next week if Gita holds on to the strength it has.

The storm is expected to bring waves of 12 metres and higher near the centre which could lead to significant coastal damage and flooding where the centre of Gita comes in.

Due to so much uncertainty with the models it will most likely be until Monday before exact location of landfall is worked out. Certainly central New Zealand (upper half of the South Island and lower half of the North Island) appears to be at the greatest risk based on the past few days of various models - but this could still shift further north or south. We'll keep you posted on what the models are saying in the days ahead but all New Zealanders need to be watching this closely.

Both GFS and ECMWF models suggest Cyclone Gita will arrive on Tuesday afternoon and overnight into Wednesday morning. What happens at that point is still not locked in either. It's becomes a much more complicated low by the time it reaches New Zealand which is why there is still uncertainty.

- WeatherWatch.co.nz

- By head forecaster Philip Duncan.

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