Storm cuts off schools and students
Twenty-five Otago teens were stuck in a mountain lodge overnight and police took students in Westland home as severe weather and rising water levels left authorities on high alert yesterday.
Otago Boys’ High School deputy rector Mark Hooper said
25 students were staying an extra night in the school’s lodge in the Mt Aspiring National Park after a creek became too high to cross safely.
Harihari’s South Westland Area School principal Mark Caplen said the weather had been ‘‘pretty dreadful’’.
The school closed at lunchtime but the roads north to Hokitika and south to Franz Josef were closed due to slips and flooding.
The police escorted some students north to Ross. Caplen said the road at Whataroa was blocked by a slip and it was possible children who lived south of Harihari would have to be kept in the school overnight.
State Highway 6 between Harihari and Franz Josef was closed due to surface flooding at
9am. The NZ Transport Agency (NZTA) later extended the closure from Woodstock Rimu Rd near Hokitika in the north, to south of Fox Glacier.
Westland Civil Defence opened a welfare centre at Harihari, south of Hokitika, for tourists or locals needing support, with other centres on standby. All schools in Westland closed as a precaution.
Local civil defence controller Simon Bastion said flood levels on the Hokitika, Waiho and Haast rivers were being monitored, with the Haast rising steeply.
NZTA said surface flooding remained a problem along other sections of the West Coast.
SH73 Arthurs Pass to Otira was also affected by flooding and strong winds.
Westland Mayor Bruce Smith said the Hokitika River reached its first flood level warning at 10.30am. High tide was at midday and about 300mm of rain was still expected over the next 24 hours.
Fierce winds and downpours were also forecast for central and southern areas of the North Island yesterday.
Along with high winds – including damaging northwesterly gusts to 150kmh in the Canterbury high country – and downpours, the South Island was forecast to have a sharp drop in temperatures, with snow predicted for some areas.
A campervan is partially submerged in Westland’s flooded Hokitika River.