Heavy rain fears subside as storm runs out of puff

Early concerns over heavy rainfall for the South this weekend may subside, as ex-tropical cyclone Uesi appears to be losing its strength.

Emergency Management Southland [EMS] controller Bruce Halligan said the ex-cyclone "seems to be weakening", but rain was still expected across parts of the lower South Island.

The update followed initial predictions, released yesterday, which suggested the region could be hit by significant rainfall.

Mr Halligan said the ex-cyclone had been sitting off the coast of Australia and was likely to track towards the lower South Island from late Saturday.

Heavy rain and strong winds were expected to hit many areas tomorrow and Monday.

"It will rain, but at this stage it appears that levels won’t cause significant problems for us. We will keep monitoring how things develop."

He said contingency plans were under way and teams had been looking at temporary strengthening of stop banks in ‘‘key locations’’.

MetService meteorologist Andrew James said heavy rain warnings issued yesterday were mainly for the West Coast areas of the South Island.

"The remainder of the West Coast, below Westland and Fiordland [Coastal Southland including Stewart Island, and also in Buller and the western ranges of Nelson], are all under a watch for heavy rain for various times on Sunday."

However, the risk of heavy rain across the remainder of Southland and Otago was now low.

There was also a "high confidence" in the chances of spill-over rain into the headwaters of the lakes and rivers of Canterbury and Otago, from Arthur’s Pass southwards.

It was likely more areas would be added to the watchlist over the weekend, and the public were advised to keep an eye out for updates from MetService.

A convoy of business and essential services vehicles would make their way in to Milford Sound today to take in items including food, fuel and to remove rubbish.

Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency journey manager Tresca Forreste said highway crews on the West Coast and in Fiordland were prepared for surface flooding from early tomorrow morning, through to Monday.

Strong winds were expected, which would present challenging conditions for drivers.

abbey.palmer@odt.co.nz

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