Weather ‘al­most’ a civil emer­gency

Central Otago Mirror - - CONVERSATIONS - TIM CADOGAN

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

Cen­tral Otago

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Tim Cadogan

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