Christchurch polar blast not yet over

ASHLEIGH STEWART, NICOLE MATHEWSON AND FAIRFAX
Last updated 14:55 21/06/2013

Snow blankets Cashmere: Friday June 21

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HAMMERED DOWN: Wind lifted part of the roof at the Howzat Indoor Sports Centre today.

Tai Tapu flooding

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Christchurch's earthquake-damaged stormwater and sewerage systems are struggling in what could prove to be the wettest June on record.

The silver lining for the city has been a drastic reduction in reported crime, with police reporting half the number of domestic-violence incidents and only one burglary last night.


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Area commander Superintendent Andy McGregor said there had been a 40 per cent reduction in demand for police services in the city over the past 24 hours.

"It was very quiet last night. We had only one report of a burglary last night."

Crime was down "across the board", with most people staying home.

The number of reported domestic-violence incidents had been half of what police normally received, he said.

"People might not have been going out for a drink."

The key concern for police was road safety, although people seemed to be getting better at driving to the conditions in Christchurch, McGregor said.

"But we're telling people don't get complacent," he said.

The heavy rain contributed to a burst water main in the central city this morning and blocked drains across the city, with warnings about contaminated water and severe flooding of farmland near Tai Tapu.

While the morning's snow and sleet has cleared over the city, it is likely to return overnight, forecasters warn.

In the past 48 hours, Christchurch received over half its expected rainfall for June.

Thirty millimetres of rain, sleet and snow had fallen in Christchurch since noon on Wednesday, MetService data show, and the city's average rainfall for June was usually about 56mm.

Darfield had over 54 mm, Methven 49.6mm, Le Bons Bay 33.4mm and Ashburton 66mm.

Kaikoura recorded 47mm, but no data had been received from the weather station since 7pm yesterday, so it was likely to be considerably higher, a MetService spokesman said.

The deluge comes less than a week after Christchurch was hit by more than 90mm of rain in 48 hours, meaning this could be Christchurch's wettest June on record.

The highest rainfall for June was recorded in 1995, when the city had 183mm of rain.

And more is yet to come.

The polar storm's final fling could cuff Christchurch and coastal Canterbury tomorrow morning in a repeat of that experienced today.

Computer models are picking a large area of active shower clouds will spin around the back of the low-pressure centre east of the South Island and flick another period of snow onshore.

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That looks most likely to happen between about 6am and noon tomorrow.

Once that clears, wintry showers are predicted throughout tomorrow afternoon, but to a large extent the worst of the three-day storm will then be over.

Blue Skies Weather forecaster Tony Trewinnard said sleet and hail showers this afternoon across the city were likely to turn back to snow overnight as the temperature dropped again.

"It might start to settle again, and tomorrow morning, before it starts to disappear. Small hail showers are then likely on and off through the rest of the day before dying out later," he said.

COUNCIL WARNING OVER CONTAMINATED WATERWAYS

Many Christchurch schools closed for the day, while others advised parents to keep children at home.

The Ministry of Education said a total of 71 schools closed across Canterbury today, and about 30 in Otago and Southland.

Dyers Pass Rd was due to reopen about 2.30pm after being closed from the Sign of the Takahe to Governors Bay. Council staff had to help several motorists who became stuck in the snow.

A North New Brighton mother-of-one said her toilet was blocked, and council staff told her it was "probably weather-related".

The Christchurch City Council has warned that some flooded roads and parks could contain contaminated water,.

A council spokesman said earthquake-damaged wastewater systems were fragile in parts of the city and had been blocked by rain.

''It's possible flooded roads and parks may be contaminated, so avoid the water where possible or make sure you wash your hands and remove and wash any clothing that gets wet,'' he said.

Hill roads were dangerous for motorists​, the council said.​

Manaroa Farm owner Andrew Florance said most of his farm near Tai Tapu was under water, partly because of rain, but also because or poor drainage.

Power was cut in Arthur's Pass, Hororata and South Canterbury.

An Intercity bus from Christchurch to Blenheim was stranded in Kaikoura overnight when State Highway 1 was closed. The 19 passengers were put up in Kaikoura backpackers and motels.

Many sporting fixtures have been cancelled, including all Canterbury Rugby League games, all lower-grade Mainland Football games and Future Ferns netball tonight.

All metropolitan club rugby has been called off, except division one.

Canterbury Hockey was set to announce cancellations today.

The Press has been unable to deliver papers to areas north of Amberley.

Environment Canterbury has relaxed clean-air rules for those needing to use logburners to keep warm.

The council asked motorists to slow down and drive with care, especially through flooded areas, as the waves caused by vehicles could cause further flooding to already at-risk properties.

Neither the Christchurch police nor the Fire Service had been called to any weather-related incidents since the snow began falling over the city, and St John said its ambulance service's workload was no higher than normal.

Some flights in and out of Christchurch Airport were delayed or cancelled this morning.

Snow, sleet and heavy rain caused havoc across the Hurunui District overnight, with gale-force winds bringing down power lines and trees.

Porters Pass, the Lewis Pass and the Lindis Pass are closed and chains are essential over Arthur's Pass.

- The Press

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