Thursday, 1 February 2018

New Zealand hit by extreme weather

Nelson: 'Never seen it like this': Homes flooded, roads closed by storm

1 February, 2018

Families had just minutes to gather their belongings before wading through knee-deep water as they were evacuated from their homes. 

"A bit of a trifecta" of a very low pressure system, king high tides and high winds flooded homes in the Nelson area, while huge waves crashed across roads, and high winds bought down trees.

Waves were breaking straight over the sea wall onto peoples' houses in Mapua, north of Rabbit Island, while residents being evacuated from the Monaco area of Nelson said it was the worst storm they had ever experienced.

Chloe Patterson was evacuated from her home in Ruby Bay. "We had about five minutes ... but we managed to barricade all our walls before the water even came into our yard, but once the wall was breached it just flooded in because along the sea wall it all filled up before it could get to the [flood] gates and then the waves started coming in and impacting the fences."

Another house on her street, Broad Sea Avenue, was thought to have come off its foundations. 

Firefighters evacuated people from Tait St, a residential street just off Stafford Drive, the coastal road running along Ruby Bay into Mapua. People were wading through knee-deep water out of their houses, while firemen were carrying out kids. Some of the residents were just recovering from flooding six weeks ago.

The low-lying Monaco peninsula, near Nelson, was cut off from the rest of the city by the floodwaters. On Martin St, police were using a Nelson Surf Rescue inflatable rescue boat to help people off the peninsula, including a 94-year-old man.

Some residents were happy to stay, despite the water seeping into their homes - in some houses, it was knee-deep.

Significant damage was visible on the outside of the buildings, as well as to the road. It appeared that seawater had caused the electricity transformer box to explode, blowing the roof off, which meant most of Monaco didn't have power.

The tide was still high as police did final checks on residents.

The famous Boat Shed Cafe in Nelson was pummelled by the waves, and has announced it will close indefinitely in the wake of the storm.

In Golden Bay, gale force winds caused trees to topple on roads and the high tide inundated many coastal areas. Police advised of some flooding in Rototai, and emergency service crews are on hand to assist property owners.

Golden Bay resident Jude Gillies said she had "never seen the tide across the road as much as it is today". She was in the Band Rotunda watching the high tide inundate Abel Tasman Drive in Pohara.

There were dozens of vehicles backed-up and spectators were standing on either side to watch the high tide crash over the road and into the cliff face. There were "huge logs and debris" and "rocks being washed over the road", and the water was "lifting out great potholes", she said.

"The rocks are too big to lift, that's how strong the force is," she said. "I think people are still risking driving through, but it's a case of whether the road should be closed or people should use their common sense and not go through."

She said they had gone down to have a look because it was "so exciting". "The sea is so warm; it's high tide, but there's no rain."

Nelson Tasman Civil Defence Emergency Management group controller Roger Ball said a declaration of emergency was not in the Nelson region at the moment "but that is a consideration in our thinking".

The flooding was caused by "a bit of a trifecta" with a very low pressure system, king high tides and high winds. "That's driving a lot of water and storm surge into the head of Tasman Bay and parts of Golden Bay."

Three Civil Defence centres had been set up at Collingwood Area School, Hill's Community Church at Mapua and the Honest Lawyer at Monaco. There had been self-evacuations of about 20 to 30 people from Collingwood, Mapua and Ruby Bay, and people had also been evacuated from Monaco.


All coastal routes were affected by storm surges, Tasman District Council said.

Rocks Rd in Nelson, the section of State Highway 6 that runs along the coast south of Nelson city centre, was closed to light vehicles after waves crashed across the carriageway.

Dramatic video showed cars trying to navigate the route just before it was shut.

While waves were crashing over Rocks Rd, at about 10.30am, a person inside a taxi reportedly had a seizure, police said. St John Ambulance shift manager Debbie Clark said they were called to the incident but didn't have to transport the person to Nelson Hospital

Rocks Road remained open to heavy vehicles. The closure affected Russell St to the lights at Tahunanui. ​"Our contractors liaised directly with police, and the decision was made jointly to close the road to light vehicles at 10am," NZTA spokesman Andrew Knackstedt said.

In Golden Bay, the tide was coming over the road in Rotatai, Collingwood and Pohara to Tarakohe and Ligar Bay.

Takaka Hill was closed between Riwaka Valley Road and Aaron Creek Road, due to fallen trees. Motorists were being told turn back, expect long delays and be aware of power lines. At 2.30pm, it was re-opened to one lane.

Abel Tasman Drive was also closed at the Pohara Band Rotunda due to flooding.

Stafford Drive in Mapua was closed from Pinehill Rd to the Ruby Bay Bluffs. Lower Queen Street in Richmond was also closed between McShane Rd to Lansdowne Rd.

A police media centre spokeswoman said a vehicle was partly hanging in the river at Blackbyre Rd, off the Appleby Highway in Tasman. No one was in the vehicle.

The combination of a king tide, super moon and remnants of a tropical cyclone hit the small settlement of Glenduan, north of Nelson.
Inspector Tony Hill, Acting Tasman District Commander said police were recommending that people take extreme care when travelling on the Coastal Highway between Greymouth and Westport, as a number of trees have come down.

"The weather is making driving conditions extremely difficult and we're urging people to stay off the roads unless travel is absolutely necessary," he said. "If you do need to travel, please drive to the conditions – watch your speed and following distances."

Tasman District Council community relations manager Chris Choat said at midday that the tides were beginning to subside and the surge beginning to drop, but "we are still warning people to take care. There's going to be a lot of water around."

There were dozens of vehicles backed-up and spectators were standing on either side to watch the high tide crash over the road and into the cliff face. There were "huge logs and debris" and "rocks being washed over the road", and the water was "lifting out great potholes", she said.
"The rocks are too big to lift, that's how strong the force is," she said. "I think people are still risking driving through, but it's a case of whether the road should be closed or people should use their common sense and not go through."
She said they had gone down to have a look because it was "so exciting". "The sea is so warm; it's high tide, but there's no rain."


Flights were suspended at Nelson airport after a nearby stream burst its banks, flooding the airport's access road.

The water was knee-deep at 11am at the area around the construction site, airport marketing manager Sally Russ said.

At 12, Nelson airport staff were slowly letting people in and out of the airport. About 30 centimetres of water was still on the airport access road, but the water was subsiding quickly.

Flights had mostly resumed by 2pm but passengers should check with their airlines directly. Updates would be posted on the airport's Facebook page.


Council spokesperson Paul Shaddock said this was different to a state of emergency, as the centre's role was to determine the extent of the event.

The centre was monitoring the situation and liaising with the councils, DHBs and emergency services, he said.

Road closure updates could be found on the councils' Facebook pages.

One of the main central city car parks in Nelson was flooded with knee high water on Thursday morning.

The low-lying Wakatu Square car park often floods during king tides, as sea water comes up through the drains. But Nelson City Council said it was an unusual weather event.

"People that have been working for the council for more than 30 years have never seen a storm surge that high," spokesman Paul Shaddock said.

The tide level was about 50 cm higher than expected, he said. The water subsided quickly.

The council didn't shut the car park in advance, despite forecasts of king tides culminating with heavy rain and gales force winds, because it had put out plenty of warnings, Shaddock said.

"Signage was put up prior to the event, and we'd warned people on social media about the likelihood that car parks would be flooded." The council would be assessing what had happened.

Nelson coastguard president Wayne Harrison said they hadn't had any call outs but were doing a patrol around the harbour to look for any damage.

He said one of the coastguard volunteers had been at the Honest Lawyer at Monaco to help the Surf Life Saving members with radio control.

Harrison said a yacht with no one on board had come off its mooring at the height of the storm and drifted through the channel to Tahunanui beach.

Tasman district Council said roadside rubbish and recycling services were suspended and the rubbish tips at Richmond and Mariri were also closed. They will re-evaluate the closures at 2pm.

The first day of the Nelson Buskers Festival was cancelled due to the stormy weather. The shows over the next few days should go ahead as scheduled.


Metservice meteorologist Lisa Murray said heavy rainfall combined with the king tide, gale-force winds and a significant ocean swell resulted in Thursday morning's storm surge.

A 4.5 metre tide was forecast for 11.22am in Nelson and more than 100 millimetres of rain fell in the Western Ranges on Thursday morning, with 12.2 mm was recorded in central Nelson.

Murray said the Wairoa River, like others in the region, had difficulty during king tides as the water at the mouth of the river had nowhere to go. Combined with that, there was a four-metre swell coming from the north into Tasman Bay.

"On top of that, you have really strong northerly winds, so you are going to get wind waves as well."

The Nelson station reported a wind gust of 91 kilometres per hour on Thursday morning.

Murray said there was more rain forecast about the ranges on Thursday. Later in the evening, the wind would change to become westerly.

Local state of emergency declared as heavy rain, gales thrash West Coast

1 February, 2018

A local state of emergency has been declared in Buller as heavy rain and strong gales continue to thrash the region, forcing residents in some coastal communities to evacuate their homes.

Power has been cut to hundreds of homes, schools have closed, roads have shut, and several buildings have been damaged as the remnants of tropical cyclone Fehi head down the country.

The remnants of tropical cyclone Fehi has closed roads and schools and damaged roofs in Greymouth on Thursday.

Civil Defence said a local state of emergency had been declared in Buller on Thursday afternoon in response to the severe weather.

The Buller District Council said the main problem was the lunchtime high tide. The water was starting to recede in some places but continued to rise in areas north of Westport.

Homes in many low-lying areas around Westport had been evacuated, including Snodgrass, Carters Beach, and Derby St. Many houses had flooded and several local roads and highways had been closed.

The council advised evacuated residents not to return home until they were told it was safe.

Residents were advised to stay off the roads, stay inside, look after themselves and their neighbours, and check the Buller Civil Defence Facebook page for critical updates. In emergencies people could dial 111 or the district's emergency operation centre on 03 789 799.

Mayor Garry Howard declared the state of emergency for the district at 1pm. An emergency operation centre had been on standby since Wednesday and was in full swing on Thursday, coordinating points of welfare, communications and general emergency operations.

SH6 had been closed between Hokitika and Haast and between Greymouth and Rapahoe (Coast Rd) due to strong winds and fallen trees. One lane of SH6 reopened just after 2pm between Westport and Murchison (Buller Gorge) and motorists were warned to take extra care on SH73 (Arthur's Pass) and SH7 (Lewis Pass) due to the gales.


Blaketown resident Rewa Kanara saw a small tornado on the Grey River wharf on Thursday morning.

"The noise was crazy. It wasn't real tight. It was more like a mist. I was driving and it was beside us on the water where the boats are; it skipped the road to the park then puckered out. My jaw literally dropped," she said.

Grey District Mayor Tony Kokshorn​ said the area was being battered by "severe gales", which were blowing debris around and had brought down several fences.

Greymouth's central business district was closed, as were several local roads, including Beach Rd at Rapahoe, and the roads to Cobden and Blaketown breakwaters and Aorangi Reserve.

The roads to Jellyman Park, via Domett Esplanade, were also closed as sea water and debris had come over the road.

Cobden resident Zane Smith was told to evacuate by police, but chose to remain at his home in Domett Esplanade.

"This is the first time we've ever seen the sea come into Domett Esplanade like this and it rose really, really fast, so all of this water came up in about 20 minutes.

"This is ocean water that has come up through the stormwater drains because the sea is only 20 metres over there . . . We've got a giant north swell coming through here essentially the land couldn't handle it and it's flooding us.

"Some of the residents have chosen to leave, but we have chosen to stay and see what happens. Hopefully since the tide is going down it will start easing off now," he said.

Lexie Skelton, another Domett Esplanade resident, chose to leave her property.

"We just picked up what we couldn't leave behind. It was scary. It was coming up our driveway so when the police told us to leave we did.

"I've been here 49 years and the first year we lived here the sea came into our property, but they built the seawall and it hasn't happened since until now," she said.


Two small fishing boats that had been struggling to reach the Port of Greymouth in the stormy conditions had been sent back out to sea.

Kokshorn said the boats had been too close to rocks and the gale-force winds and high waves made it too risky for them to keep trying to get in.

Coastguard volunteers had assisted them and were comfortable with their position.

"The boats aborted their attempt to get into port and are sitting four miles off the coast," Kokshorn said.

"It is scary for them. They are pointed into the wind and severe waves are coming across, but they are coping."

Kokshorn said a state of emergency had not been declared for the Grey district because, with the tide peaking about 12.15pm, they considered worst was over and emergency services were coping.

Winds of up to 100kmh were expected to continue through to Friday morning though and authorities were keeping a close eye on the coastal settlement of Rapahoe, he said.​

A council spokesman said: "People are advised not to travel unless absolutely necessary and be aware of flying debris, rubbish on roads, potential slips [and] fallen trees.

"Schools have been advised to keep students inside away from flying debris."

Power was out from Reefton to Inangahua, and from Kumara and Hokitika to South Westland.

Crews from lines company Westpower were working to identify faults and cut fallen trees, but general manager of assets Roger Griffiths said it could take some time.

Griffiths said where powerlines were down people must treat them as live and turn off their home circuits in case power came back on without warning. For a power line emergency people could call 0800 768 241.

Westland Mayor Bruce Smith said the wind had "gone right through and taken hundreds of trees down", knocking out power "nearly everywhere".

"We were worried about the water, but it's been the wind."

Speaking to Stuff from Kaniere, just inland from Hokitika, Smith said he was unable to get back to his office because large numbers of felled trees were blocking roads.

All school students in the area were sent home after the power went off late morning.

Highways flood and flights stop as winds close to 140kmh hammer Wellington

1 February, 2018

Winds gusting close to 140kmh have hammered the Wellington region, toppling tress, cancelling flights, turning wheelie bins into "missiles" and whipping up waves that have flooded highways and eaten away sea walls.

Metservice was forecasting gales across the region on Thursday as much of the country is hit by the remnants of Tropical Cyclone Fehi.

Wind gusts of 126kmh were recorded at Kelburn in Wellington about midday. Gusts of 137kmh were also recorded at Mt Kaukau, also in Wellington.

Alfie Croasdale, 9, enjoyed sitting through the waves at Plimmerton Beach. His mum, Shona Croasdale, said the photo was taken about 1pm on Thrusday afternoon and "he was loving it". "This is normally great access to go down to the beach, but obviously not today. This was about the tenth wave he sat under."

Metservice Meteorologist Tui McInnes said high winds began to pick up in the capital about 9am. The strong winds were expected to continue throughout the afternoon.

Multiple flights have been cancelled or delayed arriving and departing Wellington Airport where winds of 116kmh have been recorded.

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Toxic algae outbreak: Wellington swimmers, dog walkers warned to avoid Hutt River

31 January, 2018

Greater Wellington Regional Council has issued a warning for the Hutt River after toxic algae in the area reached dangerous levels.

Dog walkers and swimmers have been warned to avoid the river south of Silverstream through to Birchville after algae levels rose through January.
"Algae mats in these areas are thick and starting to peel, which presents danger to swimmers and dogs," says Greater Wellington environmental scientist Dr Mark Heath.
"We have to be prudent in these circumstances and advise the public that it's not safe to swim in those stretches of the river."
The algae can cause nausea, vomiting, numbness, tingling, muscle twitches, shaking, weakness, and breathing difficulties.
It is also possible for the algae to cause convulsions and loss of consciousness, although this is unlikely.
The council does not expect the rain forecast for Thursday and Friday to wash away the algae from the river, and is encouraging swimmers to check online before they go swimming around Wellington.

Those wanting to cool off in the heat will be grateful to hear the Akatarawa River and the rivers in the Kaitoke Regional Park are still safe for swimming.

Drought, fire, now a flood in Dunedin

There were fears flooding in Dunedin could be as bad as the 2015 floods, but it appears the city has “dodged a bullet”, RNZ reporter Ian Telfer says

King tide closes Auckland coastal road

Christchurch swelters in 35 degree heat, its hottest day in two years

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