Uesi to batter New Zealand with heavy rainfall, strong winds

Courtney Spamer

Once a tropical cyclone moving through the Tasman Sea, Uesi, now a tropical rainstorm, packed a punch as it impacted New Zealand this weekend.

Uesi took a southeasterly track late last week and through the weekend, aiming for the southern tip of New Zealand's South Island.

It was a cloudy start to the weekend across much of the South Island on Saturday as the storm approached. Rain began to move into the area through Saturday night.

Seas and waves also increased throughout Saturday. Waves as high as 6 to 8 meters (20-26 feet) approached the northwestern facing shores of the island.

The above visible satellite image shows Uesi churning in the Tasman Sea between southeastern Australia and New Zealand late Friday, Feb. 14, local time (Photo/RAMMB).

"Rain that increased throughout the evening on Saturday across the southern half of the South Island will persist through Sunday," said AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Adam Douty.

The clockwise spin of Uesi brought the heaviest rainfall to the northwestern side (the windward side) of the island as waves of rain and thunderstorms push onshore.

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Rainfall amounts of 50-100 mm (2-4 inches) were reported from the town of Hokitika, located along the mountainous and remote northern shore, to Milford Sound.

The heaviest rain fell in the higher terrain. These areas will be susceptible to slips and mudslides, including both Mount Aspiring National Park and Mount Cook National Park.

Visitors, residents and hikers alike should be cautious if they plan to explore either national park into the beginning of the week.

On the other side of the higher terrain, very little precipitation fell. This kept the Christchurch area mostly dry, despite Uesi's proximity.

Wind gusts reached 64-80 km/h (40-50 mph) along the coast and in the high elevations of western New Zealand.

This wind, coinciding with rounds of heavy rain, may topple trees and cause power outages and coastal flooding.

The storm's southern track allowed the North Island of New Zealand to go through the weekend rather unscathed. Only a stray shower and some breezy conditions moved into places like Wellington, New Plymouth and Auckland.

Uesi is unlikely to be the last tropical concern for New Zealand or Australia in the coming weeks. Forecasters monitoring long-range forecasts indicate some tropical activity is possible on the northern end of Australia near the end of February.

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