Heavy rainfall helps, hinders

By Laurel Stowell, Anne-Marie Emerson

The rain that fell on Wanganui throughout Monday and into yesterday proved a mixed blessing.

Firefighters and farmers welcomed the deluge but the downpour caused problems at Wanganui's wastewater treatment plant.

Daniel Corbett, of the MetService, said 30mm of rain was recorded at Wanganui airport between 9am Monday and 9am yesterday, relieving dry ground that had not had a drop of rain for weeks.

Patea also saw 30mm of rain, while Hawera had 35mm. Areas around Mt Taranaki had 150mm.

Mr Corbett said the heaviest rain fell on Monday night, at a rate of 8mm an hour, and was accompanied by thunder, lightning and strong northerly winds.

"It certainly wasn't a feeble front - there was a lot of sub-tropical air around that made it a good soaker," Mr Corbett said.

Wanganui principal rural fire officer Bernie Rush said the fire risk in Wanganui yesterday eased from extreme to high.

"And if the rain continues into [today] we'll probably push it back to moderate - we take it day by day. But this rain certainly gives us a bit of a breather."

Mr Rush warned that the ground could dry out quickly.

He said if the rain hadn't come, the district would have moved from a restricted fire season to a prohibited one.

Thanks to the rain, the restricted fire season remained in place.

Wanganui farmers welcomed the rain. Federated Farmers' Wanganui president Brian Doughty had 35mm of rain at his Brunswick property by yesterday morning. He said it stayed for a while, breaking the dry spell.

The cooler weather would also mean the moisture would not bring on facial eczema, and he was hoping it would not be followed by another series of drying westerly winds.

"I'm pretty happy with where we are at the moment," Mr Doughty said.

However, the stormy weather was too much for the malfunctioning wastewater treatment plant.

Wanganui District Council infrastructure manager Mark Hughes said heavy rain and a strong southerly wind had stirred up both ponds which had previously been settling.

"Unfortunately, this resulted in some odour from about 4am [yesterday] but it is pleasing that by 4pm they were starting to settle down again."

Weather permitting, more lime dosing by helicopter would be done on Friday, Mr Hughes said.

Heavy rain prevented staff from going out to the pond until yesterday afternoon.

Mr Hughes said the hard ground meant an influx of stormwater into the Beach Rd pumping station, so that stormwater had to be manually diverted to sea twice yesterday.

Infrastructure staff were called out from midnight on Monday, because surface flooding had raised manhole covers throughout the city.

Mr Hughes said the council received 17 notifications of road closures, flooding and slips.

All problems were cleared and roads opened by 4pm yesterday.

Buildings sufferings leaks and floods were reported throughout the city. At the Property Brokers' office in Victoria Ave, desks had to be cleared out of the way of sodden carpets.

As well, there were minor leaks at Wanganui Hospital.

The MetService said not much more rain was in the forecast for Wanganui. Mr Corbett said today would see a mix of fine spells and cloudy periods, with increasing sunshine leading up to the weekend.

The last two days' heavy rain may cause the cancellation of the Steam v Sinew race today. One of the organisers, Patrick Carroll, said a call would be made this morning if the rain had brought too much debris down the river for the paddler steamer versus other river craft race to go ahead.

"Safety is paramount and we don't want to damage anything on the PS Waimarie.

"We'll make a call in the morning. But if it's on, all cheating is all legal."

The Whanganui River race is scheduled to start at 11.30am at Upokongaro and will finish around 55 minutes later, just upstream of the Union Boat Club.

- Wanganui Chronicle

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