Holidaymakers urged to check roads, growers count cost

Holidaymakers should check conditions before they set out and Central Otago growers are counting the cost of the weekend's heavy rain, with some reporting extensive damage.

MetService says holidaymakers in the South and around New Zealand are in for another day of rain, after numerous roads were closed yesterday by flooding, slips and debris, and travellers were asked to stay put until the weather cleared.

A man was rescued by Weston's Fire Brigade after driving into a flooded road at 10.20pm last night.

The brigade found the man, who was in his 60s, waiting on top of his submerged vehicle before Five Forks bridge outside of Oamaru.

The man, who was in his 60s was rescued without injury. 

The rain caused significant damage in the approach to Patearoa Bridge yesterday. Photo: Central...
The rain caused significant damage in the approach to Patearoa Bridge yesterday. Photo: Central Otago District Counci/Fulton Hogan

Though it has lifted a heavy rain warning for Otago, MetService said severe thunderstorms were still likely in Waitaki and Dunedin in the early afternoon, including large hail stones which could cause significant damage to crops, orchards, vines and glasshouses, and make driving hazardous.

A severe thunderstorm warning for Timaru and Waimate in South Canterbury was issued about 3.45pm.

Flooding outside on Waimate's Queen St (SH82). Photo: Supplied
Flooding outside on Waimate's Queen St (SH82). Photo: Supplied
In Earnscleugh, near Clyde, floodwaters were receding this morning after the Fraser River breached its banks, inundating orchards and vineyards. The flooding prompted the closure of Earnscleugh and Strode roads late yesterday.

The rain stopped about 8.30am today, allowing orchardists and viticulturists to assess the damage.

Flooded cherry trees at Earnscleugh this morning. Photo: Jared Morgan
Flooded cherry trees at Earnscleugh this morning. Photo: Jared Morgan
Panmure Orchards owner Jeremy Hiscock said while damage was still being assessed some varieties of cherries were a "100% percent loss".

"It's easy to say there's been extensive damage throughout the region."

Earnscleugh had been hit particularly hard. "The helicopters have been up and some properties still have a metre of water, we've still got about two feet in some parts."

HIGHWAYS CLOSED

Four highways have been affected by flooding in the South.

State Highway 8 leading into Otematata has been closed this afternoon after Parsons Rock Bridge partially collapsed due to flood damage. Traffic has been diverted from Otematata-Kurow Rd to Aviemore Dam Rd.

The New Zealand Transport Agency advised that State Highway 83 between Otematata and Aviemore, State Highway 87 between Kyeburn and Outram and State Highway 90 between Waikoikoi and Tapanui are closed following the heavy rain.

State Highway 82 between Ikiwai and Kurow is also closed after flooding caused a section of the road to collapse. A detour is in place. 

There is a detour in place for the SH83 closure, with northbound vehicles turning right onto Aviemore Dam Road, then left onto Te Akatarawa Road and onto Benmore Dam Road, then turning left onto Loch Laird Road before turning right to get back onto SH83. Reverse for southbound vehicles. This detour is suitable for heavy traffic.

The Mataura River in flood near the Pyramid Bridge. Photo: Sandy Eggleston
The Mataura River in flood near the Pyramid Bridge. Photo: Sandy Eggleston
For the SH90 closure, northbound traffic should use turn left onto Koi Road, then right onto Seddon Hill Road, before continuing onto Station Road, then turning left onto State Highway 1. Reverse for southbound traffic.

There is no detour in place for the SH87 closure and motorists are asked to consider alternative routes or delay their travel.

The closure on SH83 is expected to remain in place for the next week, and the closure on SH87, where the bridge has washed out, until further notice.

Emergency Management Otago Group Controller Matt Alley said this morning numerous local roads also affected by surface flooding, slips, washouts and debris.

He said he had been in touch through the night with the Otago Regional Council’s floodwarning team, who are monitoring the impact on several rivers in the Central Otago, Clutha and Dunedin districts, and with local councils about the effects on their services and roads.

As well as roading issues, some councils had also issued boil water and conserve water notices for communities whose water supplies had been affected by the flooding.

Patearoa and Naseby continue to have boil water notices in place and Naseby residents can expect to have water to flush toilets by Monday morning. 

Drinking water tankers are available at Naseby's camping ground and on Derwent St at the public toilets. 

In Pateroa, drinking water tankers are located at the intersection of Churnside and McSkimming Road and at the pub. 

“As people look to resume their travels this morning, we recommend they check the roading conditions before they leave, respect all road closure signs and detours, and allow extra time to navigate their way to their destination," Mr Alley said.

SEVERE THUNDERSTORMS FOR WAITAKI

MetService has cancelled the heavy rain warning for coastal Otago, though more rain is forecast to continue through the day.

However, it warned that severe thunderstorms were likely for Waitaki including Herbert, Oamaru, and Maheno this afternoon with large hail from early afternoon.

A severe thunderstorm watch remains in force for other parts of the South including the Canterbury High Country, North Otago, Central Otago, Dunedin and Clutha.

Dunedin was set to experience more showers, frequent from afternoon, possibly thundery with localised downpours and hail before easing late in the evening. Showers were also forecast for Queenstown, possibly heavy before clearing.

A heavy rain watch has been issued for Buller, south of Seddonville and Westland, north of Harihari until 5pm today with periods of heavy rain, with thunderstorms possible. Rainfall amounts may approach warning criteria.

MetService has also assessed a risk of thunderstorms in the afternoon that could cause localised downpours and flash flooding in parts of the South.

EYE ON RIVERS

The Otago Regional Council said though the heavy rain warning has been lifted, some rivers in the region would continue to rise today.

Duty flood officer Sharon Hornblow said late on Sunday morning the rivers that remain high are: Taieri River at Outram, Taieri River at Sutton, Manuherikia River at the campground and Clutha River at Balclutha. Rivers in North Otago are now receding and the headwaters have peaked.

The Pomahaka River is dropping but there has been a lot of rain this morning causing the creeks to run high and adding to the influx of water.

A flooded Fraser River in Earnclugh this morning. Photo: Jared Morgan
A flooded Fraser River in Earnclugh this morning. Photo: Jared Morgan
Ms Hornblow said council staff contacted some land owners in the Taieri flood protection scheme late yesterday, before the Riverside spillway was opened overnight. There are road closures at SH87 and the intersection of Riverside Road and Bush Road.

Engineering staff continue to monitor ORC flood scheme infrastructure region-wide, including pump stations, flood-banks and channels, with all schemes performing well. Coastal mouths are being monitored and were opened yesterday where needed.

ORC’s 24/7 duty flood officers would continue to monitor river levels carefully as rivers recede. 

"With weather expected to clear soon, we remind people to stay out of the water for 48 hours after heavy rain."

The Clutha District Council said there had been some reports of minor surface flooding in the Milton area, but at this stage all flooding appears to be confined to West Otago in the vicinity of the Pomahaka River.

Meanwhile, boaties using Lake Aviemore have been warned about submerged large logs and debris that have been dislodged by the downpour.

Environment Canterbury deputy harbourmaster Gary Manch said after heavy rainfall in the Canterbury high country, the debris has ended up in Lake Aviemore, causing a potentially dangerous situation for any unaware boaties.

“The logs and debris can sit just a few inches underneath the water’s surface and would cause considerable damage to any vessel that comes into contact with it.”

A flooded road in Ida Valley, Omakau. Photo: Central Otago District Council/Fulton Hogan
A flooded road in Ida Valley, Omakau. Photo: Central Otago District Council/Fulton Hogan
Yesterday, intense rain pounded much parts of country with some campers forced to pack up early. Significant rainfall was recorded in southern areas of the South Island.

MetService said this morning that between midday on Saturday and midnight on Sunday, Alexandra recorded Alexandra 113mm of rain,  Leith Saddle (near Dunedin)  121mm,  the Summit of the Crown Range Road 99mm,  Waitati  81mm, Dunedin 75mm,  Roxburgh 68mm, and Oamaru 65mm.

In the North Island, heavy local downpours were also measured in Northland, the Coromandel Peninsula, eastern Waikato and Taupo. The Eastern Bay of Plenty was hit heavily overnight and this morning with heavy showers and thunderstorms.

Meteorologist Kyle Lee said the weather system that has brought the rain was slow moving, so high amounts of rainfall could still be expected.

Patearoa Road. Photo: Central Otago District Council/Fulton Hogan
Patearoa Road. Photo: Central Otago District Council/Fulton Hogan

ROADS REMAIN CLOSED

The Central Otago District Council (CODC) said on Sunday morning that all road closures from yesterday would remain in place until water subsides and repairs to roads can be made.

There was still isolated surface flooding and debris and road users should reduce speed and drive to the conditions.

These roads are closed:

Ida Valley Omakau Road (from Omakau to Ophir)

Puketoi Road (from Carr Rd to Wilson Rd)

McSkimming Road

Maniototo Rd (at Halls Ford Bridge)

Factory Road at the Ford

Conroys Road from SH8 to Chapman Road

Naseby Link Road 

Naseby Gimmerburn Road from SH85 – Fennessy Rod

Old Dunstan Road (gates are locked on the Dunedin Side, CODC will remain unlocked however road is closed)

Duffy Lane 

Patearoa Township Bridge, detour available via Aitken Road

Kokonga Road

Auripo Road (Boundary to Thurlow Rd)

Danseys Pass Road from the Kyeburn River Road intersection to the summit

Scotts Lane (Kyeburn River Rd to Swinburn Back Road)

Brinsdon Rd

Creamery Rd

* Earnscleugh Road has reopened, however the side roads off it remain closed 

In South Otago, roads around Kelso remain closed, with barriers up on Ardmore Rd at Black Gully and Greenvale Rd at Cross Rd.

Also closed are: Toko Mouth Rd, Conical Hill Rd from (West Otago Rd to Shennan Rd), Beatties Rd (from SH90 to Station Rd), MacFarlane Rd, Ross Rd, Pomahaka River Rd.

The Gore District Council announced the following roads are closed due to flooding on the Mataura River, which was about 3.43m above normal at Gore at about 4pm Sunday:

River Road, MacGibbon Road, Woolwich Street, and River Terrace.

Road users will need to take care in any areas with surface flooding as it may not all be signposted.

The Ida Valley in Omakau. Photo: Central Otago District Council/Fulton Hogan
The Ida Valley in Omakau. Photo: Central Otago District Council/Fulton Hogan

CAMPERS FORCED TO MOVE

Between 150 and 200 holiday-makers were plucked from the Otago Boat Harbour campsite after the Otematata River burst its banks. Some moved their camps to higher ground at the Otematata Domain.

The manager of the Kingston Top Ten Holiday Park, Stacey Edmonds, said it had been raining since Friday, but fell harder yesterday.

She spent an anxious afternoon yesterday watching the rapidly rising stream on the property, which was getting close to its top. While the Park was simultaneously filling up with stranded travellers, many cut off from reaching Queenstown by the closure of State Highway 6.

The camp, on the southern shores of Lake Wakatipu, had a capacity of 160 and filled up almost immediately.

"It has upset some of their bookings, so they're stranded with us until they can get through."

But she said the campers were in good spirits and hunkered down by an open fire.

- By Jared Morgan, ODT Online and  RNZ

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