Slips and flooding as heavy rain hits - cold winds sweeping up from Antarctic

Lisa McKewen

Flooding in Centre Valley, Marlborough

Heavy rain hitting the centre of the country provided a rude awakening for one man as his house bus took on water.

The overnight deluge led to flooding, slips and crashes around the top of the South Island.

Have you been affected by the heavy rain? Send your newstips, photos and videos to newstips@stuff.co.nz

State Highway 6 is down to one lane between Renwick and Havelock in Marlborough.
RICKY WILSON/FAIRFAX NZ

State Highway 6 is down to one lane between Renwick and Havelock in Marlborough.

Now, more bad weather is on the way, with MetService warning of significant snow accumulations above 400 metres, along with strong winds, in the lower South Island on Friday and Saturday.

"A cold front accompanied by bitter temperatures sweeps up from the Antarctic and after warming ever so slightly over the ocean, arrives in the South Island from tomorrow afternoon and the North Island during Saturday," forecaster Cam Coutts said.

Some towns nearer sea level could see a dusting of snow as the front went by. Snow could disrupt higher road passes in the South Island and possibly in the North Island high country later on Saturday.

Police monitor the ford on Old Renwick Rd near Blenheim.
RICKY WILSON/FAIRFAX NZ

Police monitor the ford on Old Renwick Rd near Blenheim.

The strong flow is expected to bring with it big and powerful southwest swells around much of the country right through the weekend, although the coasts of eastern Northland and Auckland, and Bay of Plenty should be sheltered.

"Frost and ice will also become an issue right across the country as the wind and weather eases into Sunday and Monday and some places fall into negative temperatures overnight," Coutts said.

On Thursday, a Nelson man awoke to find himself in a rising river, as the house bus he was in took on water from the Wairoa River near Hope.

Flooding on SH6, south of Nelson.
SUPPLIED

Flooding on SH6, south of Nelson.

Senior Sergeant Blair Hall said the man attempted to drive out of danger, but soon became stuck.

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"Due to the swiftness of the river, when emergency services got there they couldn't reach him," Hall said.

He said when they arrived the river was surround the house bus.

Debris and flooding at the ford on Old Renwick Road, near Blenheim.
SUPPLIED

Debris and flooding at the ford on Old Renwick Road, near Blenheim.

Coastguard dispatched a surf rescue team to attend, and rescuer Noah Hosie was sent in an inflatable rescue boat to reach the stranded man.

Hall said the man was uninjured, but it was a timely reminder that people camping near rivers need to keep an eye on both the forecast and predicted river levels.

"It's not the first time people have been caught out by rising rivers in that area."

Rain swells the Wairoa River at the Brightwater Bridge.
MARION VAN DIJK/FAIRFAX NZ

Rain swells the Wairoa River at the Brightwater Bridge.

HIT WATER, LOST CONTROL

Mussel farmer Matthew Bergman was driving to Havelock for work about 5am when he hit the flooding in Kaituna on SH6, northwest of Blenheim.

"Coming down off the hill by the Kaituna sawmill, there's a big massive puddle. I would have hit it at 100kmh, I couldn't see it because there's lots of trucks on the road at that time so you can't have your high beams on."

Flooding in Wairau Valley, Marlborough, sparked by heavy rain hitting the top of the South Island.
TED LAWS

Flooding in Wairau Valley, Marlborough, sparked by heavy rain hitting the top of the South Island.

Bergman lost control of the family car for a second but managed to get through the flooding without crashing, he said.

"It gave me a bit of a fright . . . Lucky I didn't crash, I can't afford to fix [the car]."

His coworker had the same experience shortly afterwards, he said.

Heavy rain hits the top of the South Island and Wellington in this MetService rain radar image from 7.13am on Thursday.
METSERVICE

Heavy rain hits the top of the South Island and Wellington in this MetService rain radar image from 7.13am on Thursday.

"There's quite a few little puddles along that road. It's quite a common spot for flooding.

"Maybe council should put some drainage in."

Bergman was given the day off as mussel harvesting was called off in the Marlborough Sounds due to the weather, he said.

SIGNIFICANT FLOODING

Two cars became stuck in surface flooding on SH6 at Kaituna early on Thursday morning.

Highway patrol team leader Sergeant Barrie Greenall said one car was towed from the water about 5.30am.

Half an hour later, a man had to be pulled from his car which became stuck in the water.

"It was passable, if they had been driving more carefully," Greenall said.

"There is standing water in many places in Marlborough, so when you drive through, keep your speed low."

Signs had since been placed at the flooded section to remind drivers to slow down.

"But it's difficult to get signage at all places because the water is so changeable," Greenall said.

A tree fell on SH63 west of the Wairau Valley township, blocking one lane, but the tree had since been cleared.

Many roads had damage from the water and drivers should be wary of potholes hidden under the water, Greenall said.

"Unexpected potholes can damage your tyres. State Highway 63 is the worst at the moment."

The only road closure at 10am was the Old Renwick Rd Ford, Greenall said,

The rain had eased by 10am but Greenall expected surface flooding to remain for a few hours.

"There's a lot of water coming down from the hills. I went up Wairau Valley early this morning and farmers were telling me they were getting 13 millimetres of rain an hour."

Police said there had been significant surface flooding, with multiple weather-related calls from 4.45am on Thursday.

Wairau Valley woman Lisa McKewen said there was plenty of water on State Highway 63.

"It was worse further up the valley where our house is, but nothing you can't drive through."

Tasman District Council Civic Defence spokesperson Chris Choat said there was surface flooding across the district, particularly at Waimea West Road, and drivers were urged to drive to the conditions.

However he said river levels were beginning to ease.

"Rivers have coped remarkably well and they are dropping back now as forecast," Choat said.

He said for short bursts overnight, several areas in Tasman had rainfall at 20-30 millimetres an hour, including Moutere at 8pm on Wednesday.

RESCUED FROM FLOODWATERS

On SH6 near Kaituna a vehicle became stuck in road surface flooding for a short time about 5.10am. The driver and car were helped to safety.

Another car had become stuck in flooding on Waimea West Road near Brightwater.

On Kohatu-Kawatiri Highway, Glenhope, a rock slip was blocking part of the road. 

While no roads in the regions were officially closed, the NZ Transport Agency (NZTA) was watching the situation closely.

WARNING AS LOW DUMPS RAIN

According to MetService a low, mixed with moist tropical air, was sitting over all of central New Zealand on Thursday morning.

That system dropped 100mm to 150mm of rain in 24 hours over the hills above Nelson and Tasman, while 80mm to 100mm fell above Marlborough.

Lower-lying areas, where most people lived, experienced the heaviest rain in the early hours of Thursday, while rivers were already swollen from heavy rain in the ranges.

The entire low was expected to move east, off New Zealand, during Thursday but this would be followed by cold southerlies and frontal systems moving over the country.

This was expected to bring snow for parts of the South Island.

MetService had also issued a severe weather watch that warned northwest winds could rise to severe gale from Thursday morning until early afternoon in an area from south Taranaki across to Taihape, as well as Hawke's Bay.

 - Stuff

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