A severe thunderstorm warning at red has been issued for parts of the western Bay of Plenty and Tauranga, with very heavy rain expected to lash the region.

In a statement, MetService said “severe thunderstorms” near Te Puke, Oropi and Otanewainuku were moving north and are expected to hit Te Puke, Papamoa, Pyes Pa and Oropi at 7.30 this evening.

They are then expected to be spotted near Tauranga, Te Puke and Papamoa at 8pm.

“These thunderstorms are expected to be accompanied by very heavy rain,” MetService said.

“Very heavy rain can cause surface and/or flash flooding about streams, gullies and urban areas, and make driving conditions extremely hazardous.”

MetService has issued a severe thunderstorm watch for the Far North and Whangārei area this afternoon.

Weather radar detected severe thunderstorms near Kawakawa, Towai, Moerewa and Whangaruru at 5.07pm this evening, said MetService in a statement.

“These severe thunderstorms are moving towards the north, and are expected to lie near Kawakawa, Paihia, Moerewa, Whangaruru , Opua and Waihaha at 5.37pm and near Kawakawa, Paihia, Russell, Bay of Islands, Whangaruru , Opua and Waitangi at 6.07pm.”

Frequent lightning is dangerous to people and livestock, especially those exposed outdoors or on the water, and can cause power surges and damage to electrical equipment.

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 remains in place to 9pm today for Northland, Auckland and the Coromandel Peninsula.

“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.”