Saturday, December 9, 2023

Flooding, snow hits the south with more on the way

Neal Wallace
Today’s threat comes from high river flows breaching their banks.
Jason Herrick’s Lumsden dairy farm resembled a braided river after heavy rain yesterday.
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Further flooding is expected in Southland today as river flows peak and begin spilling their banks.

States of emergency were declared in Southland and Queenstown yesterday and this morning, after up to 130mm of rain fell in just 24 hours.

Meanwhile, MetService this morning reported snow falls in parts of Otago and Canterbury as low as 400m above sea level.

Heavy rain yesterday caused surface flooding on low lying areas of Southland, but with heavy rain still falling in the headwaters, today’s threat comes from high river flows breaching their banks.

Lumsden dairy farmer Jason Herrick says he recorded 130mm of rain in the 24 hours to Thursday night, which led to a cow drowning, damaged the lane and caused several culverts and bridges to blow out.

Some culverts were 1500mm in diameter but were unable to handle the volume of water.

The neighbouring Oreti River peaked at 700 cumecs, well below the 1978 record of 1200 cumecs, but such has been the build-up of gravel in the riverbed, Herrick says the level was higher.

Chris Dillon, the Southland President of Federated Farmers, says schools are closed and the roads are airily quiet this morning.

He recorded 100mm of rain in 20 hours on his Balfour farm which caused surface flooding in areas he has never seen before.

Parts of Gore in Southland were under water yesterday. Pic: Gore District Council.

The peak flow in the Mataura River reached the Waimea Plains this morning and Dillon says locals say it peaked higher than the 1999 flood but below the 2020 event.

The federation’s Southland vice president, Bernadette Hunt, says she had 77mm of rain at her farm north of Gore and says there have been reports of widespread damage to culverts and bridges from around the province.

She says farmers had advanced notice of the wet weather,but forecasts were varied, with predicted rainfalls ranging from 16mm to 70mm.

“That made it quite challenging to plan,” she says.

A fonterra spokesperson said some milk collections in Southland had been disrupted “but we managed to find ways to access most farms due for collection”.

Thirty farms  had their normal collections delayed until today. 

MetService is warning that up to 9pm today there could be 20 to 40cm of snow accumulate on areas 500m above sea-level in Central Otago, Queenstown Lakes, MacKenzie and inland Canterbury.

In Central Otago and Queenstown Lakes, MetService warns 20 to 30cm of snow call fall above 400m with heavier amounts at 600m.

This afternoon up to 10cm of snow could accumulate in the Canterbury foothills.

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