Wild weather heads north after lashing West Coast

Crews work to restore the approaches at Smithy’s Creek bridge on State Highway 6 near Franz Josef...
Crews work to restore the approaches at Smithy’s Creek bridge on State Highway 6 near Franz Josef. Photo: NZTA
The rough weather that has been lashing the West Coast in recent days has moved north today, leaving the region cleaning up in its wake.

A heavy rain warning for Westland has expired, but heavy rain warnings are in place for Coromandel, Bay of Plenty and Mount Taranaki in the North Island, and inland Marlborough at the top of the South Island.

The weather caused havoc on the Coast, closing roads, causing power outages near Haast and cutting off the township of Fox Glacier.

However, an improving weather and roading picture was emerging for South Westland’s State Highway 6, NZ Transport Agency Waka Kotahi said this morning.

In an update about 10am NZTA said the northern section of SH6 between Ross and Franz Josef would be open by 2pm. Trees and slips were being cleaned up to allow for the reopening.

The road remained washed out between Franz Josef township and Fox Glacier and was likely to remain closed over the weekend. Its status would be reviewed at noon on Monday.

The sections of highway from Haast to Makarora and Fox Glacier to Haast have now reopened.

Contractors working to replace power poles washed away by the recent high seas to restore power...
Contractors working to replace power poles washed away by the recent high seas to restore power to customers near Hannahs Clearing, south of Haast. Photo: Katherine Blakeley

The Westland Emergency Management operations centre was demobilised at 1pm on Friday.

It was a relief to have avoided major evacuations, West Coast Emergency Management group controller Te Aroha Cook said.

"We have however had significant impacts from this event across the district and have communities that remain without power, roads are closed, and a small number of people were evacuated near Harihari.”

Areas south of Hannahs Clearing, including Arawhata, Jackson Bay and Neils Beach were still without power due to the loss of three power poles.

Linesmen were on site and more were due to arrive, though Westland Emergency Management said it was likely the power would not be reinstated until Sunday.

Earlier, MetService meteorologist Stephen Glassey said the heaviest rain this morning had been recorded in Auckland and Northland.

Severe thunderstorm watches in the North Island have been extended till 9pm.

They are in place for Auckland, Great Barrier Island, Coromandel Peninsula, Waikato, Waitomo, Bay of Plenty, Rotorua, Taupō and Gisborne.

These areas could see downpours of 25mmhh to 40mm/h. That means chances of slips, and surface or flash flooding, especially about low-lying areas such as streams, rivers or narrow valleys.

MetService says driving conditions will be hazardous.

Vector says customers in Manukau, Helensville, Albany, Henderson Valley and on Waiheke Island have power outages this morning.

Crews worked through the night to restore power to most of the homes but 600 customers still remain in the dark, it says.

MetService meteorologist Mathapelo Makgabutlane said Northland, Auckland and the Coromandel Peninsula were likely to see the most rain today.

She said the ground was a lot drier compared with last year, which could help avoid severe impacts of slips and surface flooding.

Some parts of Auckland had already seen 20mm/hour, she said.

"That top of the North Island is still the place to watch. We've got that severe thunderstorm watch in place until 2pm and that will be looked at again this morning as well as all those areas that are under a heavy rain warning in the North Island."

Elsewhere, overnight Mount Taranaki more than over 100mm of rain, while Marlborough saw between 60mm and 70mm.

Nelson's main waterfront route is open after closing overnight due to the bad weather in the area.

Nelson City Council communications manager, Paul Shattock, said it was wet and windy overnight as expected, and Rocks Road was closed as a precaution.

He said the road reopened at 2am and he had not heard any reports of weather-related issues in the region overnight.

Marlborough, West Coast evacuations

Dozens of Marlborough households were yesterday being asked to evacuate by 9am today because homes could be flooded if a nearby river stopbank failed.

Heavy rain in the upper Wairau catchment is expected to cause river levels to rise significantly.

Civil Defence was asking 70 households in Spring Creek to move out for the day as a precaution.

However, the Marlborough District Council lifted the evacuation order this morning, saying the risk of a stopbank breach had fallen.

Glyn Walters from Marlborough Civil Defence and Emergency told Morning Report the river level was considerably lower than what was modelled last night.

Earlier, MetService's Makgabutlane told RNZ that in the past 24 hours Blenheim received 54mm of rain - its April average is about 58mm.

"Currently, there is still some rain over that area and it is expected to continue moving eastwards and eventually off the country later on today."

"That area has received a lot of rain over the last 24 hours, around 150 to 200mm in those ranges. That would have a flow-on effect down the rivers."

There were also evacuations in Harihari, north of Franz Josef, last night.

West Coast Emergency Management group controller Te Aroha Cook says 17 people from three homes were evacuated to the Harihari civil defence centre last night due to flooding.

She says those who did not have somewhere else to go were put up in a hotel for the night.

Speaking from Nelson, RNZ reporter Sam Gee said there were concerns the Wairau River is going to rise significantly this morning and that residents had been evacuated.

Marlborough District Council flood data shows the Wairau river was flowing at just under 1200 cubic metres at 6am, so it hadn't reached its level one flood warning, but it was expected to start rising after 9am.


 - additional reporting ODT Online