Forecasters warn severe thunderstorms are possible across much of the upper North Island this afternoon.

MetService warns driving conditions may be hazardous in places. It comes as many holidaymakers return home this weekend.

A severe thunderstorm watch is in place from midday to 9pm today for Northland, Auckland, Coromandel Peninsula, Waikato, Bay of Plenty, Rotorua, Taupō, Gisborne, Hawke’s Bay and Taihape.

“Conditions are favourable for the development of severe thunderstorms with localised downpours this afternoon and early evening,” MetService said.

“Rainfall of this intensity can cause surface and/or flash flooding, especially about low-lying areas such as streams, rivers or narrow valleys, and may also lead to slips.

“Driving conditions will also be hazardous with surface flooding and poor visibility in heavy rain.”