Lifestyle

Weather: West Coast’s SH6, near Harihari, closed due to flooding


State Highway 6 on the West Coast has been closed at Harihari due to flooding, as a cold snap sweeping the country brings bursts of heavy rain to many areas.

MetService has issued a range of heavy rain warnings and watches on Sunday, as well as a severe thunderstorm watch for Canterbury.

Police confirmed on Sunday afternoon that State Highway 6, near Harihari, was closed because of flooding and advised motorists to avoid the area, which is about halfway between Hokitika and Franz Josef.

A Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency (NZTA) spokesperson said the closure was due to a washout at Harold Creek. Civil Defence said the creek is understood to have jumped its banks.

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MetService meteorologist Hordur Thordarson said rain had been falling near Harihari since Friday. A weather station near the town had recorded nearly 300 millimetres of rain in the past 24 hours, he said.

“There is a front that’s bringing heavy rain to them at the moment.”

Thordarson said the front was moving north, so rain should ease on Sunday night. Heavy falls could continue until 6 or 7pm.

Places north of Harihari, including Hokitika, Greymouth and Westport, would likely get some brief downpours, but not as much rain overall, Thordarson said.

Henry Schmetz, who owns the Pukeko store and cafe in Harihari, said heavy rain was still falling late on Sunday afternoon and there was surface flooding in the town.

“We have experienced heavy rain like this before and the weather report is that it’s going to ease tonight so I am not too worried,” he said.

“We are in a farming community, farmers will be looking out for their stock, bringing sheep to higher ground and so forth.”

A staff member at the Hari Hari Hotel said they had a few unexpected guests, unable to return home.

“One guy who has lived here for 56 years said it’s the most rain he’s ever seen,” she said.

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West Coast civil defence regional director Claire Brown said there were some intermittent power outages in Harihari and slips on the state highway.

NZTA would reassess the roads at 8am on Monday, she said.

Rainfall had been worst from Harihari to Hokitika, she said. The Hokitika River was of most concern.

“It’s tracking under the levels that we’ve experienced in recent years when we’ve had flooding, so it’s still contained which is good, and we’re hoping with the rain subsiding into the evening that that will remain the case.”

Harold Creek, just outside Harihari, is understood to have broken its banks, Brown said. NZTA were heading towards the creek now to re-divert into its channel.

She said Civil Defence staff were on standby if an emergency coordination centre had to be activated.

Heavy rain forecast across the country

A cold front is expected to move northwards across the South Island on Sunday, and onto the lower North Island on Monday where it would become slow-moving, MetService says.

Heavy rain is on its way to much of west and central New Zealand on Sunday and Monday. (File photo)

MONIQUE FORD/Stuff

Heavy rain is on its way to much of west and central New Zealand on Sunday and Monday. (File photo)

Ahead of this front is a moist northerly airstream that will bring heavy rain for parts of central and southern areas. This will then be followed by a cooler southerly flow which could also bring heavy rain to some places, MetService says.

The key areas that could see rain are parts of the West Coast and northern areas of the South Island, and lower areas of the North Island, stretching up to Mount Taranaki. While Canterbury is also forecast to see thunderstorms on Sunday.

Thunderstorms are brewing

A thunderstorm watch is in place for the Canterbury plains and Canterbury high country on Sunday afternoon, between 3pm – 8pm.

Thunderstorms are expected to develop in parts of Canterbury throughout the afternoon and evening, bringing localised heavy rain and strong wind gusts between 90kmh – 110kmh.

The national forecaster says there’s a moderate risk of severe thunderstorms developing south of Rakaia, bringing the possibility of damaging winds gusting greater than 110kmh, and also the risk of a small localised tornado.

Wind gusts of this strength can cause some structural damage, including trees and power lines, and may make driving hazardous. If any tornados​ occur, they will only affect very localised areas, MetService states.

MetService

A change to cooler weather arrives to all places south of Taupō on Sunday and Monday, but warm and humid weather continues further north.

Heavy rain warnings in place

Heavy rain warnings are in place for Mount Taranaki and the Tararua Range, from 9pm Sunday to midnight Monday. Between 120mm – 180mm of rain is expected to fall in these areas, especially on Monday morning.

A heavy rain warning is also in place for Westland, between Otira and Haast, throughout Sunday and lasting until 8pm. Between 120mm – 180mm of rain is expected to fall about the ranges on top of what has already fallen, bringing rainfall totals for the event to 400mm – 500mm or possibly more, MetService states. Coastal areas can expect a further 60mm – 90mm of rain to accumulate.

A further warning is in place for the headwaters of the Canterbury lakes and rivers about and south of Arthur’s Pass, throughout Sunday lasting until 8pm. A further 100mm – 150mm of rain is expected about the divide, and 50mm – 70 mm within 15km east of the divide.

Heavy rain is forecast for central New Zealand on Sunday (file photo).

MARTIN DE RUYTER/Stuff

Heavy rain is forecast for central New Zealand on Sunday (file photo).

Where the heavy rain watches are

The top of the South Island is in for some rain, with heavy rain watches forecast for Tasman, west of Motueka, between 4pm Sunday and 3am Monday.

A further watch is in place for the Richmond and Bryant ranges, including the Rai Valley and northern parts of the Marlborough Sounds, between 6pm Sunday and 11am Monday.

A watch is in place for Buller throughout Sunday, lasting until midnight.

Wellington and Wairarapa, south of about Greytown, can expect some possible heavy rain to fall on Monday morning. A watch is in place between 3am – 9am on Monday.



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