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Monster waves: 6-metre swells aiming at our coastline today

Waves of up to six metres high could hit Wairarapa shores today and tomorrow in the wake of Cyclone Hale.

Metservice said heavy rain was expected to affect parts of the North Island from yesterday evening, with the heaviest rain likely to fall today. But Wairarapa’s biggest concern would be massive waves.

“Easterly swells of between four to six metres are forecast to impact eastern-facing coasts from Northland to Wairarapa on Tuesday and Wednesday, which could lead to coastal inundation and erosion around high tide.”

Riversdale Surf Lifesaving Club chair Dave Rose said if the swells did end up being that big, the beach could close.

“If we consider the beach to be unsafe for swimming, then we will put out the flags to show that the beach is closed. We will make that decision fairly early [this] morning.”

Rose said surf lifesavers could only stop people from swimming between the flags, but they could not stop people from going down to the beach.

“What we would do if the beach was deemed unsafe is operate more mobile patrols, going up and down the beach more.”

He said they would ensure that they were able to help people who may not have seen the signs and had entered the water.

“People can drown in a couple of seconds; stay out of the water.”

Rose said swimmers, fishermen, and boaties should all respect the sea and stay out while large swells were about.

He said once the beach was closed, lifesavers could not control what people did.

“We don’t make a decision to close the beach lightly. Our beach will only close once or twice a year.”

Rose said Riversdale Surf Lifesaving Club was responsible for about 20km of coastline all the way to Ocean Beach.

He said the start to the year had not been great for swimmers, with only about 12 taking a dip at Riversdale on Sunday.

Metservice said that east to southeast winds were forecast to increase to strong or gale force across much of the North Island during the course of this morning.

It said that severe gales were possible in some exposed regions. Metservice said there was high confidence of heavy rain reaching warning criteria in Hawke’s Bay, with confidence reducing to moderate for Wairarapa, including the Tararua District, tomorrow.

It said there was some uncertainty about the timing and movement of Cyclone Hale, but it would likely bring a period of heavy rain, gale or severe gale winds, and hazardous coastal conditions to parts of northern and central New Zealand.

Atop the Tararua Range, winds up to 80km could be expected at Powell Hut tomorrow, and low visibility could continue today, Niwa Weather said.

It said poor visibility caused by low clouds or mist presented challenging route-finding conditions for trampers.

“Distances become hard to judge and cliff edges and steep slopes difficult to recognise.”

Niwa Weather said the conditions required good navigational skills.

“There is a risk of white-out conditions when mist or fog is combined with extensive snow cover.”

It said strong winds, expected tomorrow, could make walking difficult and strenuous with the potential to be blown over by gusts.

“There is often a marked increase in winds on exposed ridges and summits or on passes.”

Niwa Weather distances could take longer to cover and compass bearings become harder to follow accurately.

It said strong wind combined with low temperatures lowered the “feels-like” temperature relative to the actual temperature, with even moderate winds significantly adding to the chilling effect.

Grace Prior
Grace Prior
Grace Prior is a senior reporter at the Wairarapa Times-Age with a keen interest in environmental issues. Grace is the paper’s health reporter and regularly covers the rural sector, weather, Greater Wellington Regional Council, and coastal stories.

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