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Ex Cyclone Hale: Massive effort to clear state highways

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Update on closures in Coromandel, Gisborne and Hawkes Bay.

While rain is easing, the fallout from Ex-Tropical Cyclone Hale is still having a huge impact on communities, especially around State Highway 35, after the storm caused widespread flooding and slips throughout the region.

Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency contractors are working extremely hard to clear remaining slips and re-open vital lifelines to communities in Gisborne, the Coromandel and also in the Hawkes Bay.

State Highway 35 (SH35) remains closed today between Tolaga Bay and Ruatoria.

National Journey Manager Helen Harris says, while people living around the East Cape are extremely resilient, the impact of Ex-Cyclone Hale is testing everyone.

“The welfare of people living near SH35 in particular, is our key concern. We understand how critical this highway is for getting food and supplies to whānau and towns.”

Waka Kotahi is working with emergency services, Gisborne District Council, Eastland Network and Civil Defence to coordinate movement for emergency and service vehicles across the region.

Ms Harris says Waka Kotahi is grateful for the frontline staff who are out there responding diligently to this storm, especially in the wake of the other severe weather events that have affected the region in recent years.

“Some of our contractors and their whānau will have been affected by the damage personally.  Yet they prioritise their work in these events each and every time. We are very grateful for their commitment as we couldn’t do this without them.”

In the Coromandel, the closure of the Thames Coast Road (State Highway 25) has been extended to cover the area from Tapu, past the Te Puru closure point and further south to Tararu due to the risk of another slip on the hillside.

Contractors have employed three diggers to try and clear the existing slip at Ruamahunga and geotechnical engineers are on their way to investigate the risk of a slip at the second site. 

A digger works to clear a large slip which has covered a road with trees and soil

State Highway 25A is open to one lane past remaining slips at Kopu Hikuai. A fresh slip at the waterfall has occurred this morning and it has also reduced the road to one lane.  This is expected to be cleared early this afternoon.

A digger and road worker clearing a slip covering a road with trees and soil

In the Hawkes Bay, State Highway 2 is currently still closed between Tangoio and Tūtira. There have been a number of fresh slips overnight. Crews are working on these now and Waka Kotahi anticipates the road will be open from 5pm.

State Highway 5 is now fully open.

A reminder for Gisborne road users that there will be an emergency closure of Gladstone Road Bridge from 7pm tonight (Thursday 12 January) until 6am tomorrow and again overnight tomorrow, Friday 13 January.

Ms Harris says the closure is required to clear debris beneath the bridge. “Expect the work will be noisy, as heavy machinery and chainsaws will be in use,” she says.

Waka Kotahi continues to urge motorists to stay off affected roads. If they must travel, they should expect the unexpected and stay alert for unreported hazards.

Ms Harris says we’re not out of the woods yet. “Further damage could occur on the network, even as the weather improves, due to saturated ground and unstable slopes.”

She advises motorists drive to the conditions, view the latest weather forecast on the MetService website and check their intended route for hazards or disruptions before setting out using the Waka Kotahi interactive Journey Planner website.

MetService website(external link)

Journey Planner website(external link)

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