Heavy rain warning for West Coast and drizzle across a warm South Island

Kumara Racing Club president John Ryall at the waterlogged West Coast track.
Joanne Carroll

Kumara Racing Club president John Ryall at the waterlogged West Coast track.

The popular Kumara races have been cancelled and roads partially washed out as heavy rain pounds the West Coast.

Heavy rain and strong winds are battering parts of the South Island, prompting warnings from MetService and police.

A Greymouth police spokesman issued a warning about rising river levels from Kumara Junction to Haast and said roads had been partially washed away in some places.

The races at Kumara on the West Coast in 2014.
supplied

The races at Kumara on the West Coast in 2014.

NZTA also warned of surface flooding on SH6 between Ross and Fox Glacier. 

The Kumara Racing Club announced it was cancelling Saturday's race meeting as the race track was "waterlogged and unable to race on". 

Club president John Ryall said the committee made the decision to cancel on Thursday morning. 

Police are urging motorists on the West Coast to drive to the conditions and allow extra time for travel.
ROSS GIBLIN/FAIRFAX NZ

Police are urging motorists on the West Coast to drive to the conditions and allow extra time for travel.

"Health and safety had to come into play for the horses and the jockeys. One wee section of the track is really bad and with more rain predicted tomorrow and Saturday it's not going to dry out in time," he said. 

The area had seen 57mm of rain on Wednesday night. 

The race was the biggest meeting on the West Coast with crowds of up to 8000 usually turning out. 

Red sky in the morning, shepherd's warning. Rain is expected to set in across the South Island, while temperatures ...
JOHN KIRK-ANDERSON/FAIRFAX NZ

Red sky in the morning, shepherd's warning. Rain is expected to set in across the South Island, while temperatures remain mild.

"We are very disappointed for the owners and trainers and the public," he said. 

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It was the first time the race was cancelled prior to race day. 

The race had to be abandoned twice in recent years after racing started due to rain and slippery conditions on the track. 

Karamea dairy farmer and Federated Farmers West Coast president Peter Langford said farmers were "not coping really well at all". 

"We are getting our third flood this year with the road washed out. We've had no sun and just rain," he said. 

"Without sun we have very poor grass growth. Even with fertiliser there's been a sluggish response it's so waterlogged. The grass is yellow. It's weak.

"Many farmers have gone to once a day or 16 hour milking for the first time. They've never had to do that before. I myself went to once a day milking a week before Christmas rather than buy feed. We're doing what we can to survive. There will be no profit."

He said some farmers' production was down 15 per cent.

The Westland Milk Products payout was "not flash" and farmers were still recovering from a very low payout in 2016, he said. 

According to MetService, total rainfall in Westport during 2016 was 2479mm – 336mm more than 2015's total. 

In the year to January 11, Hokitika had 104.5mm of rain, of which 53mm fell in the 24 hours to 9am Thursday. The town had only 32.9 hours of sunshine, compared to 85 hours in January 2016. 

The MetService warned that winds could reach severe gale strength on Stewart Island and coastal parts of Southland and Clutha.

"People in these areas are advised to keep up to date with forecasts."

Christchurch Transport Operations Centre (CTOC) issued a statement shortly after 11.30am warning of travel delays due to strong winds.

"There are a number of warnings in place across the South Island due to the weather system passing across at the moment," the CTOC statement said.

"Please take extra care if travelling through these areas, especially if you are a motorcyclist or driving a high sided vehicle such as a caravan."

Strong winds were causing delays on State Highway 80 between Ben Ohau and Mount Cook National Park, as well as SH79 between Rangitata to Fairlie, SH8 between Otago Levels and Milton and SH8 between Timaru and Twizel.

Rain is expected to fall in most southern centres while temperatures remain balmy in the lead-up to the weekend.

A high of 29C is expected in Christchurch with fine spells throughout the day. Southerly winds and showers are set to land in the afternoon.

Further south, Dunedin residents were showers, expected to turn heavy in the afternoon. After a high of 20C, a southerly change in the evening may bring the mercury down.

In Nelson, early rain is expected to mainly clear throughout the day with a chance of drizzle in the early afternoon. The town is set for a high of 23C.

Some brief rain is expected to fall in Blenheim around midday, but a high of 26C is forecast. Strong northwest winds should ease by the afternoon.

 - Stuff

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