Un­wel­come records loom for hot, dry re­gion

The Press - - Front Page - LIZ McDON­ALD

Christchurch weather records look set to be bro­ken by more scorch­ing and dry days.

Res­i­dents are switch­ing on fans and drag­ging out the pad­dling pools with tem­per­a­tures to­day, Satur­day and Sun­day fore­cast to reach 33, 31, and 29 de­grees Cel­sius re­spec­tively.

Low wa­ter lev­els and sticky roads have led to calls from au­thor­i­ties for peo­ple to take care.

While the fore­casts are short of the De­cem­ber record tem­per­a­ture of 36C in 2015, the city is headed for a record dry spell after a rain­less Novem­ber. Christchurch’s av­er­age De­cem­ber high is 21C.

As of yes­ter­day, the city had gone 42 days with­out more than ‘‘a few spits of rain’’, ac­cord­ing to the Met­Ser­vice. The record, set in 1954, is 45 days.

The city’s next rain is due late on Sun­day, but is ex­pected to be just brief show­ers. Fire re­stric­tions will be in place in the Hu­runui, Waimakariri and Sel­wyn dis­tricts, and in the Christchurch City Coun­cil area, in­clud­ing Banks Penin­sula, from mid­night to­mor­row. Wa­ter re­stric­tions are also pos­si­ble soon.

Met­Ser­vice said rain soil mois­ture lev­els had taken a hit, ‘‘reach­ing a se­vere mois­ture deficit al­ready’’. Sun­day’s show­ers were not ex­pected to be suf­fi­cient to boost ground mois­ture lev­els.

This Novem­ber was the dri­est in the city for 150 years.

The city coun­cil has asked res­i­dents to use wa­ter sen­si­bly after 30-plus tem­per­a­tures last Satur­day and Tues­day, with high-20s in be­tween, trig­gered a spike in wa­ter use not seen since 2009.

The coun­cil wanted peo­ple to wa­ter gar­dens only in the early morn­ings or evenings, and not more than ev­ery sec­ond day. Overuse could lead to sup­ply is­sues, a drop in pres­sure and prob­lems for fire­fight­ers.

The reser­voir ser­vic­ing Clifton Hill is low and res­i­dents there are be­ing asked not to wa­ter gar­dens.

The Waimakariri and Sel­wyn district coun­cils have also asked for sen­si­ble wa­ter use.

Can­ter­bury dairy farm­ers are fac­ing a sec­ond year in a row that a dry Novem­ber has fol­lowed a wet spring with poor grass growth.

Ir­ri­ga­tion NZ chief ex­ec­u­tive An­drew Cur­tis said farm­ers ir­ri­gat­ing would need to man­age their wa­ter al­lo­ca­tion care­fully. He ad­vised thor­ough check­ing of equip­ment to min­imise leaks, and us­ing wa­ter me­ters to mon­i­tor us­age.

Cli­mate re­searcher Niwa said soil mois­ture lev­els had con­tin­ued to fall across the South Is­land this week. Hot spots for dry­ness in­cluded Nel­son, north­ern Tas­man, coastal Marl­bor­ough, nearly all north­ern and cen­tral Can­ter­bury, coastal South Can­ter­bury, Clutha, and east­ern and cen­tral South­land.

While rain would boost soil mois­ture in Fiord­land and the West Coast next week, things in the east would keep get­ting drier, Niwa said.

The NZ Trans­port Agency urged mo­torists to drive cau­tiously on melt­ing roads with South Is­land road tem­per­a­tures ex­pected to ex­ceed 50C un­til Mon­day.

Spokes­woman Lee Wright said re­cent hot days had al­ready started melt­ing bi­tu­men, cre­at­ing sticky sur­faces for mo­torists. This was co­in­cid­ing with the usual sum­mer road­works pro­grammes.

‘‘Driv­ers may see our road­works teams out and about lay­ing more small chip over the top of the af­fected sur­faces to help ab­sorb the bi­tu­men, and pos­si­bly wa­ter trucks spray­ing wa­ter on the roads,’’ Wright said.

She ad­vised mo­torists to drive with care and pa­tience, be aware that black bi­tu­men had poor skid re­sis­tance, slow down if they saw a sticky sur­face ahead, and slow down.

Driv­ing at 30kmh and not brak­ing on melt­ing sur­faces was ad­vised, as speed could send stone chips fly­ing into the wind­screens of other cars, while driv­ing too slowly would cause tyres to stick.

PHOTO: ALDEN WIL­LIAMS/STUFF

Care­ful ir­ri­ga­tion and wa­ter­ing con­trol is urged.

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