Weather warning

''It's pretty heinous over here''

ANNA WILLIAMS AND HEATHER SIMPSON
Last updated 16:15 17/04/2014
rain
MetService - expected rainfall in millimetres
Waikawa
Derek Flynn
Waikawa
Pre-Easter storms batters North Island
NASA
New Zealand at 11am, almost completely covered.

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Road closures 

The position at 4.00pm is as follows:

CAUTION

SH1 Picton to Tirohanga (15km south of Ward) - surface flooding and rock falls.

Queen Charlotte Drive - slips/trees down

There are a number of trees down however these are being cleared quickly by the contractor and all roads remain open at this stage.

There is however a lot of debris around, extremely strong winds and heavy rain so extra care is required by motorists. Motorists should drive to the conditions.

ROADS CLOSED

Para Road
Speeds Road
Port Underwood Road - from Whatamongo to Haka Haka - will be closed overnight due to slip

Molesworth and Rainbow roads have closed after heavy rain and wind made driving conditions dangerous.

The Acheron Rd through Molesworth Station closed today after flooding, with heavy rain forecast to continue over Easter. The road is expected to re-open in October.

The road through the historic high country station in South Marlborough opened to the public on October 26, and was expected to be open until Monday.  

The Wairau Hanmer Springs Hydro Rd through Rainbow Station is also closed from today until further notice due to flooding and slips. 

Anyone who planned on venturing into the back country this weekend is asked to change their plans.

Contact Department of Conservation Visitor Centre or doc.govt.nz to check on local conditions and updates.

People hoping to cross the Cook Strait today might be waiting a while with severe winds and a choppy sea causing ferries to be delayed by up to three hours.

Interislander spokeswoman Kimberley Brady said severe high winds and rising sea levels are making it difficult to cross the Cook Strait and berth ferries at Picton.

The Interislander ferry Aruhura set to depart Picton at 11am was cancelled. Passengers sailing today can expect significant delays and slow crossings on all ferries, Brady said.

Delays might continue tomorrow, she said.

Cancellations of sailings were likely and customers were advised to keep an eye on the Interislander's timetable page, she said.

Customers affected by cancellations and delays would be contacted, she said.

The Bluebridge ferry Straitsman is running three hours late after choppy seas made it difficult to berth in Picton.

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Bluebridge spokeswoman Wendy Pannett said cancellations weren't expected but ferries would be delayed.

Bluebridge's Santa Regina ferry set to leave Wellington for Picton at 8am left about 10am, she said.

Picton chief fire officer Wayne Wytenburg said he was nearly blown off the road as he drove past Koromiko towards Blenheim this morning.

''The wind gust pushed me over the centre passing line,'' he said.

''It's pretty heinous over here.'' 

He warned drivers to be careful for surface flooding driving along the Picton Elevation on State Highway 1.

''It's at least 15 metres wide across the road,'' he said.''You'll hit it before you see it.''

Marlborough Roads staff are on standby as heavy rain and high winds batter the region today.

Drivers are being warned to take extra care on the roads as driving conditions continue to deteriorate.

Marlborough District Council Assets and Services Manager Mark Wheeler said drivers should be vigilant as the high winds meant flying debris in the air.

Anyone towing a caravan should be prepared for the high wind gusts, he said.

"It's not a good day for travelling and we are conscious there is likely to be extra Easter traffic on the road so we need to get the message out that everyone needs to take extra care," he said.

Power is out in parts of the Marlborough Sounds.

Marlborough Lines operations manager Brian Tapp said about 150 houses had lost power in Elaine Bay, French Pass, d'Urville Island and Port Ligar due to a fault in the power lines.

Okiwi Bay was also experiencing difficulties with strong winds causing wires to clash together which temporarily affected the power supply, turning it on and off, Tapp said.

Crews were making their way to the Sounds to find the fault and fix it, however the safety of his staff came first, he said.

''We're out there looking, but if it's blowing 100km an hour it's going to be hard to even get out of the truck,'' he said.

He asked people to be patient while crews tried to find the fault.

''It's going to take a while,'' he said.

''It's close to one-and-a-half hours to some of these areas, and that's on a good day.''

If they found the fault, staff would try and cut the line in half and re-liven part of it, he said.

All staff were on standby in case the wind shifted eastwards and other areas were affected, he said. 

 

Council contractors were out around town checking for stormwater grates and clearing leaves.

Surface flooding might become an issue later in the day with high intensity rainfall predicted, he said.

Anyone who came across flooding issues is asked to call the council on 03 520 7400. 

MetService predict between 70mm and 100mm of rain will fall during a tropical front that will last until 3am tomorrow.

Low-lying areas of Blenheim and the Marlborough Sounds are predicted to be the worst affected.

 


Is the weather causing chaos at your place?

Get in touch with us by phone: 03 5208916 or email: news@mex.co.nz


The Marlborough District Council said it was on alert and sandbags would be deployed for areas worst hit.

MetService media and communications meteorologist Daniel Corbett said today was "pretty much a write-off".

"The inbound tropical low will certainly pack a decent punch, with heavy rain, downpours and very strong easterly to northeasterly winds," Corbett said.

"Low-lying areas in Blenheim will see high rain rates of tropical moisture sheeting down.

"Areas of high ground, including the Richmond Range, could receive more than 100mm of rain.

"The Marlborough Sounds will get a battering with gales and lashings of rain. The exposed east coast from Picton down to Kaikoura will be badly affected."

Yesterday, the 280 white crosses which had been placed on the banks of the Taylor River to honour Marlborough's fallen soldiers were removed.

Marlborough Returned Services' Association vice-president Rod Shoemark said it was a precautionary measure in the event the river bursts its banks.

The crosses would be returned if the river was back to its natural levels before Anzac Day, Shoemark said.

Marlborough highway patrol team leader Sergeant Barrie Greenall warned motorists to be mindful of the rain.

"Drive to the conditions and make sure you are kept up to date with releases from the MetService, Civil Defence and council," Greenall said.

"Please do not travel if it is not safe to do so.

"There are areas in Blenheim that are prone to flooding, and police patrols will be paying particular attention if and where the weather is predicted to hit."

More than 50 council staff were on standby and the council's emergency operations centre would be operational to calls from the public.

"There are not many properties that regularly flood. We have contractors who maintain a stock of sandbags and we will use them as required."

Members of the public can do their part, he said.

"It is always good practice to clear leaves from any storm weather grates and guttering on your property."

NZTA South Island highway conditions

Marlborough District Council floodwatch

Getting there in one piece

Here are the New Zealand Transport Agency's top tips for driving safely during the Easter break.

Plan ahead.  Get your vehicle checked before you head out, plan to avoid peak traffic where you can and give yourself enough time to take plenty of rest or sightseeing breaks along the way.  It's your holiday after all, so why not make the journey an enjoyable part of it?

Drive to the conditions.  This isn't just about weather conditions-it's about the road you're on, the traffic, your vehicle and load, your speed, and even you as a driver (for example being tired or on medication that might affect your driving). 

Watch out for fatigue.  Long trips are tiring and fatigue can be deadly behind the wheel.  Get a good night's sleep beforehand, and plan in advance where you'll take breaks along the way.

Keep your cool.  Holiday driving can be frustrating with busy roads and restless kids in the car. So please, be courteous and patient while on the roads.  Don't get provoked by other drivers' aggressive behaviour, and wait to overtake until you get to a passing lane or can see enough clear road ahead of you to do it safely.  And be sure to take enough games, books and DVDs to keep the kids occupied along the way.

Buckle up.  Don't let your family holiday be marred by tragedy simply because someone didn't buckle up. If you're the driver you are legally responsible for making sure all passengers under the age of 15 are securely restrained with either a safety belt or child restraint.  And remember that the laws about child restraints changed on 1 November, so children must be properly restrained by an approved child restraint until their 7th birthday.

It's important to remember that we all play a part in making our roads safer for everyone using them.

"We all make mistakes sometimes, but mistakes on the road can have serious or even deadly consequences.  Staying alert, keeping your speeds down, being courteous and driving to the conditions are all key elements of a safe journey for you and your passengers this Easter."

Find out about making every journey safer by visiting saferjourneys.govt.nz 

 

- The Marlborough Express

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