Wild winds, power cuts in Canterbury

RACHEL YOUNG AND NICOLE MATHEWSON
Last updated 14:59 21/06/2013

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Rain-sodden land is causing issues for farmers trying to feed their stock in Canterbury.

Manaroa Farm owner Andrew Florance said 200 acres of his 300 acre farm was underwater at the moment. 

This was partly because of the rain, but also because the drainage system in the area had not been upgraded as the area developed, he said.

"Depending on what happens now we will be wet until the end of August," he said.

His 180 cows were being mainly kept on 40 acres of hill to keep them as dry as possible.

Florance was feeding out a lot more to keep the stock's energy levels up.

Only some of the feed they put on the ground was able to be eaten as it was either trampled by the animals, or sunk into the ground. 

Federated Farmers Mid-Canterbury president Chris Allen said his property on the Canterbury Plains was totally flooded.

Like other farmers he was feeding up to double what he usually would since the stock were burning a lot of energy to keep warm.

"You might have had a reasonable amount of feed but they are not getting enough in their stomachs because the ground is just so sodden."

The wet ground meant feed was getting covered by mud and the animals could not eat it easily, he said.

Likewise, they would "hurry" to the feed causing some of it to be trampled into the ground.

Allen said all farmers could do was feed out as much as possible and move stock to more sheltered areas.

"The concern is how long will it go on for."

The Lewis Pass and inland Kaikoura roads remain closed with contractors were battling up to two-metre high levels of snow at some parts.

"It's pretty extreme snow drifts up that way," Hurunui District Council emergency management officer Allan Grigg said.

"They are still hoping to punch through by tomorrow."

He said power was out in Mt Lyford and to several farm houses in the district.

Grigg said most of the farms were "pretty resilient" and would have been prepared.

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

The storm brought down more than 30 large trees at the Blythe Rd and Nape Nape junction alone, and trees were blocking Leader Rd and Cathedral Rd.

Conditions were so bad that it was unsafe to send clearing crews into the areas overnight and the strong winds were continuing to batter the district this morning.

Severe surface flooding was reported in Rotherham and Hawarden last night and power and phone networks in the Hanmer Springs and Rotherham area remained fragile after several outages yesterday.

Hurunui residents were also being urged to conserve water, with snow blocking power to water pumping stations across the district.

Grigg said snow was blocking some of the solar panels that powered radio communications at the pump stations.

The radios were used to relay information about water flow at each station, and the council had sent out workers to check each of the district's 14 stations, "which takes time".

"Water might be on-again off-again in Hurunui. People should conserve water, make sure they've got something stored so if there are cuts they're ok."

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The council warned that wet roads had frozen in some places, causing treacherous black ice this morning.

Motorists were asked to stay off the roads if possible or take extreme care if their journey was absolutely necessary.

Several main arterial routes and bridges had been affected by the bad weather, including:

  • Leader Rd is closed
  • Inland road is closed
  • Omhi Saddle on SH 1, was temporarily closed overnight but is now open
  • Minor flooding across areas of SH 1, Waipara to South of the Hurunui bridge
  • SH 7 (Lewis Pass) is closed past the Hanmer Springs turnoff
  • SH 7A to the Hanmer Springs township is open, but conditions are deteriorating

POWER CUTS

Arthur's Pass has been hit by a power cut.

Orion chief executive officer Rob Jamieson said Arthur's Pass was the latest on the grid to be affected by a power cut with about 116 properties affected.

He said another 200 properties in the Hororata and Lake Coleridge area had been without power since about 5.30am today.

Jamieson said they could not give an estimated time before power was back on as they were still trying to isolate where the fault or faults had occurred and there were some access difficulties.

Meanwhile, nearly 400 South Canterbury households are facing a second day without power.

Alpine Energy spokesman Michael Boorer said the severe snow and rain had caused about 340 homes in Burkes Pass and Beautiful Valley to lose power yesterday morning.

Another 60-odd homes around Cricklewood, Limestone Valley, Raincliff and the surrounding areas had lost power during the night.

Boorer said crews were working hard to restore power, but heavy snow and high wind conditions were making progress difficult.

"We haven't quite identified exactly where the lines are down. It's pretty difficult to get up into that area."

He said they had planned to have helicopters do a fly-over this morning, but it was too dangerous.

"We are trying our best to get [power] restored," he said.

WAIMAKARIRI ESCAPES WORST

Waimakariri District Council emergency management officer Brennan Wiremu said sleety rain falling over the district last night stopped about 3am.

The rain was followed by winds, which dried out the roads, preventing black ice from forming.

"It's a far more improved situation than yesterday," he said.

Oxford received a "light dusting" of snow overnight, and some flooding remained from Monday's deluge in some parts of the district.

The Ashley Bridge remained closed after Monday's floods washed away one of the bridge's 20 piers.

LEESTON FLOODING RECEDES

Leeston Volunteer Fire Brigade chief Noel Thian said the water that flooded homes, closed schools and overloaded the sewerage system yesterday had receded overnight.

He said firefighters spent yesterday "sandbagging" around several houses near where the local town creek had overflowed.

"We are pretty lucky that the water has gone overnight . . . It could've been a worse."

He said they had not been called out since yesterday afternoon.

He believed they were through the worst of the forecast weather, but would remain on high alert.

The flooding forced Leeston School and Ellesmere College to close yesterday and they would remain closed today.

Residents in Doyleston and Leeston no longer need to reduce toilet flushing or water consumption.

However, the council will continue to monitor the areas as severe weather conditions over the next few days could affect these sewerage systems again.

Meanwhile, snow is falling in several parts of the district.

From 6pm today until midday tomorrow, five to 10cm of snow is expected above 300 metres, and a further 20 to 25cm is expected above 500 metres in some places.

The Selwyn District Council is warning motorists to be very careful and only do essential journeys.

Council contractors are working to clear snow from roads and to clean up after flooding.

Damage to roads such as potholes from the extreme weather is likely to have occurred on a number of roads. Repair work will begin once the weather allows and will be ongoing.

Council service centres, libraries and facilities are currently open. Rubbish and recycling collections are occurring as normal today.

- The Press

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