Nelson prepares for more wild weather

Authorities estimate at least 90 homes in the Tasman District have had some flood inundation as a result of the heavy rain over the past 24 hours.

Nelson-Tasman Region Emergency Management Group said building inspectors were checking properties that had been affected.

No major issues had been reported at any of the properties yet.

The Tasman District Council had received requests for more than 500 sandbags and 142 other service requests since the storm began last night.

Six Housing New Zealand pensioner cottages in Bird St, Richmond, were flooded and five evacuated.

In Nelson there had been serious damage to the roads and paths within the Saxton Field complex, which has been closed.

Saxton Stadium sustained damage to its hardwood floor and was still being assessed. It would be closed for at least one week.

The small farming community of Dovedale, west of Nelson, was also inundated with water this morning.

Resident Sheryl Waters said she couldn't believe how much water there was as she drove to work in Motueka.

"It was absolutely pouring like you wouldn't believe. When I went out the driveway there was a torrent flowing down the road just outside my gate, which wasn't very nice."

The ford she usually crosses on Thorn Rd was a raging river and she had to take a different route.

"Down every driveway that I drove past there were big raging torrents of water running you had to drive through great big pools. I've only got a little Toyota, you need a 4WD really."

Soaked Nelson residents are bracing for more heavy rain this afternoon as authorities study historical slip sites amid the threat of another torrential downpour.

Tasman District Council has warned Motueka residents to boil their water for at least one minute before drinking it and those cleaning up after yesterday's deluge are being warned to take care of mud and silt that may be contaminated by sewage.

There have been about 500 calls to emergency services since yesterday afternoon when the region was inundated with 104mm in one hour, the second-highest rainfall recorded in one hour.

Fire Service southern communications centre shift manager Riwai Grace said most calls were for flooding in the Nelson-Tasman area, including a medical emergency when someone received an electric shock while trying to turn the water off in their flooded property.

Numerous people had been rescued from their flooded homes and firefighters were assisting rest homes stricken by the rising water overnight.

Mr Grace said the huge volume of calls meant emergency services had to prioritise which incidents they attended first.

"We've been asking whether the flooding is inside or outside the property - if it's outside they go to the bottom of the list. If it's inside we ask if they're trapped in which case we get them to the top of the list, or if they're elderly. If it's not a priority we've been trying to give them advice on how they might be able to stop it [the water] themselves."

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The weather had improved this morning and there had only been about four calls so far, but with the rain forecast to return today emergency services were bracing themselves for another onslaught.

"I'm now touching wood that those people up there will get some respite, but who knows," Mr Grace said.

MetService meteorologist Dan Corbett said another subtropical trough was expected to pass over the region later this afternoon.

It was this morning raining on the hills around Nelson and it would likely move into the city soon, he said.

"Through the middle of the day and into the afternoon around the northern South Island and also Taranaki they're under the gun again for some of these heavy downpours," Mr Corbett said.

It was likely to pass by this evening, and cooler, fresher air would start coming in from the Tasman, possibly bringing more rain but in far lesser quantities.

"We get through this evening and then we at least lose this heavy, sub-tropical moisture," Mr Corbett said.

Much of the country, from Waikato to Buller, could possibly see thunderstorms from the mid to late afternoon today.

Ms Ricker said several families had sought assistance at a welfare centre set up at the Richmond New Life Centre this morning.

The extent of the damage to properties and infrastructure was still being assessed.

Saxton Field and Saxton Stadium in Stoke were closed due to flooding, as was the Rabbit Island Recreational Reserve.

Elderly residents from Stillwater Gardens Retirement Village in Richmond had to be moved from their rooms as water poured in yesterday evening.

Business manager Kristin Nimmo said water had come into about 26 residents' rooms, soaking into the carpet.

They had been accommodated in other parts of the building.

"In our internal courtyards the sheer volume of rainfall was just too much to be taken out by the normal drainage systems," she said.

Neighbours and residents' family members had come over to help mop up and a carpet cleaning company had been over at midnight.

"The residents have all coped remarkably well and we've had extra staff who have just come in despite not being asked or being on duty," Ms Nimmo said.

Rest home staff were preparing for the possibility of more heavy showers today.

"We have vulnerable residents and obviously everything that affects them we're going to take seriously."

MetService senior forecaster Chris Noble said they were tracking a front over the Tasman sea that was a few hours away from making landfall but loaded with thunderstorms and heavy rain.

"It's already raining in Nelson but the thunderstorms are likely to start there around or soon after dawn and getting into Waikato from about mid-morning or so."

Mr Noble says several bands of heavy rain and thunderstorms have moved over the Bay of Plenty, Northland, Auckland and Waikato.

"We've also had continued rain in the Nelson and northern Marlborough area overnight but not quite as intense as what we saw last evening."

Chris Noble says Taranaki will be hit by the same weather band.

The Waikato could be hit badly towards lunchtime.

Weatherwatch.co.nz said the areas that would be worst affected will be Bay of Plenty and East Cape, the West Coast of the South Island and Nelson.

Head analyst Philip Duncan says the rain will gradually clear up as the day goes on.

"These downpours are still pretty heavy and they could come with localised flash flooding, surface flooding like we've seen in other parts of the country over the weekend."

Mr Duncan hoped we would see an end to the rough weather over the next day or so.

Richmond Volunteer Fire Brigade chief officer Ralph Lonsdale said there were more than 100 calls reporting flooding and people stranded in cars yesterday, but just one so far this morning.

"I didn't get much sleep I can tell you that," Mr Lonsdale told Radio New Zealand.

"Every time it rained I thought, 'Here we go again'."

Conditions had improved this morning as people woke up to assess the damage.

"I can see a bit of blue sky and it's growing so that's good."

Waihi Beach chief fire officer Ian Smith said the sky had also cleared in the Bay of Plenty town this morning.

"The sun is shining and there's hardly been any rain overnight."

There had only been two emergency calls yesterday after dozens of people had to be evacuated from holiday parks and homes on Saturday.

Mr Smith said the community had pulled together to support one another.

Civil Defence officials are meeting near Nelson now to assess the damage from last night's storm.

Group Controller of Nelson Tasman Civil Defence Jim Frater said it was hard to know how much damage there was, as the storm hit as darkness was falling.

"The assessment process kicks in now with the insurers now to find out what people's needs are, how we can help and we'll also be looking to coordinate voluntary efforts as well to help people clean up."

The downpour followed a weekend of wild weather across the country. Parts of Auckland and Hamilton had flash flooding, and a mini-tornado cut a path through Raglan yesterday.

Residents in about 50 homes in Otumoetai and Matua in Tauranga were forced to leave because of the torrential downpours.

In the Nelson area, 104mm of rain fell between 5pm and 6pm in the Upper Roding catchment and 100mm in Stoke. The most rain recorded in one hour was 109mm in Auckland in 2001, said a Tasman District Council spokeswoman.

Three families had to leave their homes and Civil Defence prepared a welfare centre in Richmond in anticipation of further heavy rain forecasts.

Nelson photographer Tim Cuff said some properties were particularly hard hit.

"Richmond Church of Christ had been swamped," he said. "When I got there it was sitting in about 400mm of water but you could see it had been probably over 1m high against the walls so that was quite dramatic.

"The congregation are pretty devastated, people were walking around up to their knees in water."

He believed a nearby residential complex had been evacuated.

A police spokesman said some drivers abandoned cars on the roads and others had to be rescued or towed to safety.

Tasman District Council spokeswoman Angela Ricker said it was a "scary" few hours in the area, and the full extent of damage would not be known until this morning.

"It will have been scary for a number of residents," she said. "They were flooded in various areas that were hit by the downpour and we probably will only start seeing the effect of all of that in daylight."

At the Top 10 Holiday Resort on Waihi Beach firefighters and locals were yesterday mopping up the mess after flooding caused extensive damage to several units and pushed at least three annexes off their piles.

Resort owner Ian Smith said about 70 people were evacuated to nearby holiday camps and homes.

They included a 12-year-old girl who went into shock.

The flooding, at the beginning of the school holidays, was the worst he had seen in the 18 years he had owned the resort.

The Western Bay of Plenty from Waihi Beach to Papamoa appeared to get the worst of the weather.

Residents in about 50 homes in Otumoetai and Matua in Tauranga were forced to leave because of the torrential downpours.

Metservice meteorologist John Law said Tauranga had 195mm of rain over the weekend.

Mr Law said a low pressure system over the Tasman sea that drew warm air from the tropics was behind the wet weather.

Storm Damage

Read more:

No wind, clear skies - then tornado hits
Small tornado rips through Raglan

Nightmare as flash flood strands woman in car

- NZ Herald, APNZ, Newstalk ZB

- NZ Herald

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