Response: What to do during a storm
This page provides storm response messages.
If severe weather is coming, Severe Weather Outlooks, Watches and Warnings are issued by MetService, Te Ratonga Tirorangi, New Zealand’s National Weather Service. They are available through radio, television, the MetService website and mobile app, by registering for email, via radio and television, also on social media from @MetService on Facebook and Twitter.
If there are warnings of severe weather for your region:
- Bring inside or tie down anything that can be broken or picked up by strong winds, such as outdoor furniture.
- If you have a trampoline, turn it upside down to minimise the surface area exposed to wind.
- Remove any debris or loose items from around your property. Branches and firewood may become missiles in strong winds.
- Clear debris and leaves from external drains and gutters to prevent overflow or water damage in heavy rain.
- Bring pets indoors. They can be unsettled by storms and it is more comforting and safer for them to be with you.
- Ensure livestock are not gathered under an isolated tree or anything that presents a risk from a lightning strike.
- Moor boats securely or move to a designated safe location.
- Use rope or chain to secure boat trailers. Use tie-downs to anchor a trailer to the ground or to a building.
Listen to advice provided by your local Civil Defence Emergency Management Group and emergency services and follow any instructions.
Secure your whare/home and critical buildings by closing windows and shutters, if you have them. Pull curtains and blinds over windows. This can prevent injury from flying glass if the window breaks.
Close all interior and external doors. Closed doors will help prevent damaging winds from entering rooms.
Take extreme care with items that may conduct electricity if your whare/home is struck by lightning:
- Using electric lights is safe, but unplug appliances and avoid using the telephone or any other electrical appliance, especially television sets.
- Turn off air conditioners and heat pumps, which can be overloaded by power surges from lightning.
- If you live in an old house with metal plumbing, avoid using bathtubs, water taps and sinks as these may conduct electricity.
- Use battery-powered radios and water from your emergency supplies.
Stay up to date with the latest information and updates from MetService. Heavy rain and thunderstorms can be tracked on the MetService radar.
If you hear distant thunder or see a flash of light, get indoors immediately.
- A sturdy building is the safest location during a severe thunderstorm.
- Avoid gazebos, rain or picnic shelters and other isolated structures. These offer little protection from large hail, can be struck by lightning, and are often poorly anchored and subject to being uprooted and blown around in strong winds.
If you are boating, fishing or swimming, get to land, get off the beach, and find shelter immediately.
If you are in a car:
- Pull safely onto the shoulder of the road and stop, making sure you are away from any trees or other tall objects that can fall on the vehicle. Turn your hazard lights to alert other drivers that you have stopped.
- Stay in the vehicle with your windows closed. You are safer from lightning in a vehicle than out in the open.
- Avoid contact with metal or other conducting surfaces inside and outside the vehicle to reduce your chance of being shocked.
If you are in the bush, find an area protected by a low clump of trees.
- Never stand beneath a single large tree in the open.
- Be aware of the potential for flooding in low-lying areas.
If you cannot find any suitable shelter, as a last resort, find a low-lying, open place away from trees, poles, or metal objects. Make sure the place you pick is not subject to flooding. If you are physically able to, crouch low to the ground on the balls of your feet. Place your hands on your knees and your head between your knees. Minimize your body’s surface area and minimize your contact with the ground. Lightning currents often enter a victim through the ground rather than by a direct overhead strike.
Places and objects to avoid:
- Tall structures or elevated areas such as towers, tall trees or hilltops, as lightning normally strikes the tallest objects in the area.
- Open spaces or exposed spaces such as exposed sheds or construction sites. Move to a location beneath a solid roof and avoid openings such as windows or doors.
- Any electrically conductive objects such as metal fences, clothes lines and power and telephone lines.
- Objects in metallic contact with the ground. Machinery such as tractors are often struck by lightning, so do not seek shelter under equipment such as this.
Call 111 immediately if someone is struck by lightning.
If you see a tornado nearby, take shelter immediately.
If you are inside:
- Move to an interior room or hallway without windows, on the lowest floor. This can be a centre hallway, bathroom or closet. Putting as many walls as you can between you and the outside will provide additional protection.
- Stay away from windows and exterior doors.
- For added protection, get under something sturdy such as a heavy table or workbench. If possible, cover your body with a blanket, mattress or sleeping bag, and protect your head with your hands.
If you are outdoors:
- Lie down flat in a nearby gully, ditch or low spot on the ground. Protect your head with an object or with your arms.
- Tornadoes cause a lot of debris to be blown at very high speeds. Dangerous flying debris can be blown under overpasses and bridges, and the structures themselves can be destroyed. You will be safer lying flat in a low-lying area where the wind and debris will blow over you.
If you are in a car:
- Pull safely onto the shoulder of the road, stop, and get out. Do not try to outrun a tornado in your car.
- Lie down flat in a nearby gully, ditch, or low spot on the ground. Do not get under your vehicle.
- Protect your head with an object or with your arms.
Storms can cause inundation (flooding) in coastal areas, depending on the timing of high tides and their relative height, storm surges and accompanying wave/swell conditions.
- Be ready to act quickly. Coastal inundation can happen quickly and the warning time may be short.
- Follow the instructions and advice of Civil Defence Emergency Management authorities. Local authorities are the most informed about areas most likely to experience coastal inundation and will inform you if an evacuation is required.
- If you feel unsafe, evacuate to higher ground or away from coastal areas. You do not need to wait for an evacuation order to move to safety.
- If you have evacuated, it may not be safe to return home even when the water has returned to normal. Listen to emergency services and local Civil Defence authorities and don’t return home until they tell you it is safe to do so.
Rain associated with a storm can lead to overloading of the stormwater system and surface flooding, particularly in urban areas. Even though thunderstorms are relatively short, the suddenness and sheer intensity of the rainfall over a localised area can be hazardous.
- Be prepared to evacuate and keep your grab bag.
- Listen to the radio for updates and check the websites of your Regional Council and your local Civil Defence Emergency Management Group.
- Listen to emergency services and local Civil Defence authorities and follow any instructions regarding evacuation of your area.
- If you see rising water, do not wait for official warnings. Head for higher ground and stay away from floodwater.
- Do not try to walk, play, swim, or drive in floodwater: even water just 15 centimetres deep can sweep you off your feet, and half a metre of water will carry away most vehicles. Flood water is often contaminated and can make you sick.
- Help others if it is safe to do so, especially people who may require special assistance.
- If you have been evacuated, it may not be safe to return home even when the floodwaters have receded. Listen to emergency services and local Civil Defence authorities and don’t return home until they tell you it is safe to do so.