Drought one day, floods the next?
Drought or flood: No-one knows for sure what the next week will bring in Otago and Southland.
It could be lashings of the rain predicted to fall Wednesday night and Thursday, or more of the hot dry weather we’ve been having.
On Tuesday, an official drought was declared, in recognition that we are now beyond what is a normal dry summer, and into an extreme event in the southern regions.
The declaration would offer some relief to those affected, CluthaSouthland MP Hamish Walker said.
He was ‘‘pleased the Minister for Primary Industries Damien O’Connor has listened to our communities’ calls for action’’.
‘‘I’ve been lobbying the Minister for this declaration and I am glad he has acted with urgency.’’
It was a highly stressful time for farmers and their families, and on top of this, there was the added pressure of mycoplasma bovis, he said.
‘‘While they have been handling the dry conditions reasonably well over the past couple of months, my offices in Gore, Balclutha and Queenstown have started to see a huge increase in inquiries from farmers concerned about the con- ditions over the past two weeks.’’
This week, Niwa’s Drought Index showed most of Otago and Southland was either already in drought or headed towards it without substantial rain soon, he said
‘‘They are telling us the expected rain won’t be enough to make a difference.’’
On the same day the drought was declared, the Otago Regional Council warned that rivers could rise rapidly with heavy rains, and despite the dry conditions, the forecasted heavy rains could cause flooding in Otago this week.
In a statement, the regional council said staff would be keeping a close watch on river levels from Wednesday night to Friday morning.
MetService has issued a severe weather watch with heavy rain forecast for the whole region, with the heaviest rain expected in the Otago headwaters (Southern Alps area). Heavy rain is also expected in the central and coastal parts of the region including the Dunedin City area of Otago.
The predicted rainfall intensity could cause rivers to rise rapidly and cause localised flooding in lowlying areas. The heavy rains could also trigger sediment runoff, particularly in the Queenstown Lakes.