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New Zealand braces for more bad weather as cyclone set to track south

By Lucy Craymer

WELLINGTON, Feb 9 (Reuters) - Residents of Auckland, New Zealand’s largest city, are being asked to prepare for further bad weather as a system described as potentially “the most serious storm to impact New Zealand this century” is forecast to hit in coming days.

The warnings come less than two weeks after Auckland was hit by historic levels of rain, which killed four people, caused widespread flooding, landslides and a clean-up bill in the hundreds of millions of dollars.

Auckland Emergency Management said it was working with MetService, the meteorological agency, to track the storm, dubbed Cyclone Gabrielle. It said residents should check in with neighbours, family and friends who might need help preparing for the storm.

Gabrielle is sitting in the Coral Sea but is forecast to track south toward Aoetearoa, New Zealand, over the next few days and near the North Island on Monday. Forecasters expected to it bring heavy rain to the upper North Island, including Auckland, cause severe gales, large waves and storm surges.

New Zealand weather forecaster said the cyclone, which will most likely become a Category 3 cyclone this weekend, will reach the country between Sunday and Tuesday. Category 3 storms have winds of 119-157 kilometres per hour, with gusts up to 224kph.

“If this current modelling comes true, this will likely be the most serious storm to impact New Zealand this century – especially with Auckland being in the mix for a potential direct hit,” said Wednesday.

It added that the potential weather event would be concerning even if had Auckland not recently experienced serious flooding.

Roughly one cyclone makes affects New Zealand each year. However, MetService said the characteristics and structure of any tropical cyclone will change dramatically by the time it reaches New Zealand, and it will almost certainly be re-classified as an ex-tropical cyclone.

“Re-classification as an ex-tropical cyclone does not necessarily mean the system has weakened,” MetService added. (Reporting by Lucy Craymer. Editing by Gerry Doyle)