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Heavy rain and flood warning 15:30

Saturday, 22 January 2011 3:30 p.m.

Bay of Plenty Regional Council staff are warning people that flooding is expected if predicted rain falls in the region and all farmers should move stock to high ground.

Community Relations Manager Bronwyn Campbell said a lot of rain was expected to fall over a long period, becoming heavy from midnight tonight and continuing through to Monday.

"The MetService has issued a severe weather warning for areas of the North Island, including the Bay of Plenty," Ms Campbell said.

The warning predicted significant rainfall totals (200 - 400mm) and intensities (30 - 40mm/hr), with strong onshore winds coinciding with spring tides.  High river and sea levels are expected.

Ms Campbell said if that amount of rain fell and was spread across the region, sizeable river floods were inevitable, along with coastal surface flooding. Even if half the predicted rain fell, rivers would reach first warning levels. 

All farmers should move stock to high ground and if people don't need to travel they should stay at home, Ms Campbell said. 

"The region's pump stations have been checked and we have staff in the field on standby," Ms Campbell said.

According to the MetService, there was still uncertainty with the precise track and speed of the low, but rainfall was expected to be significant for most regions from Northland down to Waitomo and the central North Island high country, and across the Bay of Plenty to Gisborne and Hawkes Bay.

The heaviest rain was expected to be about Northland, Coromandel Peninsula, Bay of Plenty, the central high country and the ranges of Gisborne and Hawkes Bay. Here, 200 to 400mm, and possibly more, could accumulate from overnight Saturday until midnight Sunday.

The MetService was advising rain would cause rivers and stream to rise quickly, with slips and localised flooding possible, and driving conditions could be dangerous. Considering the amount of significant heavy rain which could result from this event, people were advised to keep up to date with the latest forecasts and warnings. Additionally for eastern areas from Auckland to the Bay of Plenty, high sea levels produced by strong north to northeast onshore winds accompanying the rain could restrict rivers flowing into the sea.