Deluge leads to flooding
Streets turned into rivers, properties turned into lakes and people had to be evacuated from their homes as the Mid Canterbury and Selwyn areas were hit by the worst rain event in years late last week.
The rain began falling on Friday, and forecasters had predicted it would be bad, with a month’s worth of rain expected to fall in a day. They were right. In Ashburton, where the average rainfall for July was 64mm, 115mm was recorded on Friday.
Mid Canterbury’s volunteer firefighters were rushed off their feet helping residents whose properties were being inundated and cars that had become trapped in flood waters on Friday, as staff at Ashburton Contracting Limited worked their fingers to the bone filling sand bags. On Saturday the army had to be called in to evacuate residents living near the rapidly rising Selwyn River.
Roads around Mid Canterbury were closed. State Highway 1 between Ashburton and Rolleston was closed on Friday, with the Rolleston to Rakaia section not reopening until Sunday morning. For many hours Methven was cut off from Ashburton, with State Highway 77 impassable.
Many suburban Ashburton streets were also closed on Friday, as drains struggled to cope with the downpour and waterways like Mill Creek turned into raging torrents. Although the rain had eased somewhat by Saturday, the impact was still being felt. In Lochlea subdivision in Ashburton on Saturday, Charlesworth Drive was entirely covered by deep water, while water was still seeping into homes from streets in Netherby.
The deluge was widespread, with a fair chunk of the South Island’s east coast hammered. Christchurch, Selwyn, Dunedin and the wider Otago region were all placed in states of emergency, with an evacuation order for the upper and lower Selwyn Huts eventually lifted on Sunday as the Selwyn River level dropped.
Upper Selwyn Huts residents were allowed back mid-morning followed by lower residents after midday. Hut owners checked on their properties and retrieved belongings, and the Selwyn District Council provided accommodation for anyone who needed it again overnight.
On Saturday, the army sent 120 troops in to help with flood-hit areas in Canterbury and Otago, as the mayhem overwhelmed emergency services.
Ashburton’s Charlesworth Drive covered by flood water on Saturday.