[19 October/ Radio NZ Rural]

National Institute of Water and Atmospheric (NIWA) Research Forecaster, Chris Brandilino said most parts of the country has been drying out over the past two weeks, with El Nino conditions predicted to be the second most intense since 1950. Mr Brandilino said heavy rain and flooding in parts of the country, such as Hawkes Bay and Gisborne, meant soil moisture levels were not unusually dry, but added that they would become much driers as El Nino conditions develop. Mr Brandilino said it is too soon to be certain that the country is on track for a very severe El Nino, but added that early signs indicated that severity of current conditions were second only to the 1997/98 event.