Severe weather warning for Otago

Dunedin and North Otago residents are being warned to prepare for another round of heavy rain - this time with snow - that threatens the lower South Island.

The MetService issued a severe weather warning yesterday, predicting between 80mm and 120mm of rain in the area by midnight tonight.

The heaviest falls were expected about the coastal hills and ranges of North Otago, where rainfall rates of 10mm to 15mm per hour were likely this afternoon.

The rain was also expected to turn to snow over higher parts of Otago last night and early this morning, with accumulations of 20cm possible above 1000m.

That could result in snow lying on the highest parts of Milford Rd and the Lindis Pass.

The forecast prompted a warning from the Waitaki District Council to North Otago farmers, who were urged to move stock ahead of the arrival of the bad weather.

Waitaki District Council emergency services manager Chris Raine said that after heavy rains over Easter, the ground was still saturated and would not be able to absorb rainfall, which could result in significant runoff.

The Otago Regional Council was also advising farmers to move stock to higher ground.

''It's a really fatal situation of saturated ground,'' Mr Raine said.

Rivers were expected to rise rapidly, particularly the Shag, Big Kuri, Waianakurua and Kakanui rivers, and surface flooding was expected to be similar to that over Easter weekend, making some roads impassable, he said.

''The general public should be aware that driving conditions could be hazardous,'' he said.

''People need to be ready and make sure they are stocked up with food and supplies with the possibility of power cuts.''

North Otago Civil Defence was due to meet last night to prepare for the wild weather.

-rebecca.ryan@odt.co.nz

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