Weather ‘almost’ a civil emergency
Last Friday night was shaping up nicely. I had my slippers on and feet up when I got a call from CEO and Civil Defence Controller Leanne Mash to tell me that there was flooding in Wedderburn and a house was being evacuated in Oturehua.
Now I don’t know about you, but there have been so many ‘‘weather bomb warnings’’ and so forth issued in the last few years that have amounted to little that I paid little heed when the interesting chap on TV1 said there was a ‘‘weather event’’ coming. Leanne’s call came as a surprise and of course with concern.
Our Civil Defence manager was going to Oturehua to monitor the situation. Slippers were swapped for gumboots and I jumped in. Then followed a trip that was a salutary lesson in how things can change quickly around here in winter.
When we crossed the Poolburn Hill, there was a light shower of rain. By Auripo Road, rain had turned to snow and not much further on, we decided that it was unsafe and unwise to continue. A call to the pub and Police assured us all was well and within ten minutes, we were out of the storm and thought we were heading home.
However, once we reached Ophir, farmers were out moving stock because, according to a local, the Manuherikia had come up as far in two hours as it took five to do in 1999. We then realised that we may need to declare an emergency and later in the night, that call was almost made when it looked as though some houses in Ophir would need to be evacuated. Fortunately, reliable peak flow predictions from the ORC combined with solid historical records from a local farmer gave us the confidence that this was unnecessary. Gratefully that remained the case. Although parts of the Maniototo and Ranfurly itself did cop it and evacuations were considered, we did not get to the points reached by our costal neighbours.
It was a privilege as Mayor to be able to see, and be a part of the community and groups within it coming together to make sure everyone was OK through the event. It could be said we dodged a bullet this time and it was a good reminder that we can’t get complacent having not had a major flooding event for a number of years.
One final thought though, and that is to question the people, and sadly there were plenty, who ignored the Road Closed signs and pushed on with their journeys. Some did have to get rescued and did put others at risk in coming to their aid. Others got through but for what purpose?
I have seen the technology and knowledge that goes into the work Fulton Hogan do to ensure the road reports are as accurate as possible. If the road is closed, it is closed for a very good reason, a reason I am sure would have been better than the reason people decided to give it a go.
❚ Tim Cadogan is Mayor of