Matthew Backhouse is a NZME. News Service journalist based in Auckland.

Eyes on rivers as rain continues in Canterbury

Environment Canterbury have warned people adjacent to rivers to remain vigilant. Photo / Thinkstock
Environment Canterbury have warned people adjacent to rivers to remain vigilant. Photo / Thinkstock

Authorities are keeping a close eye on swollen South Canterbury rivers as the heavy rain that threatened stopbanks and brought extensive surface flooding to the region eases.

A severe weather warning remains in place after 130-230mm of rain fell in the South Canterbury foothills since Monday night.

Environment Canterbury said the rain fell at intensities of 8-10mm an hour throughout much of yesterday before tailing off to 2-6mm last night and easing further this morning.

The heavy rain has caused extensive surface flooding in low-lying parts of the region, closing roads and prompting authorities to evacuate about 10 residents by the Pareora River, near Timaru, as a precautionary measure last night.

Rivers in South Canterbury have now peaked and were receding this morning, but authorities were continuing to keep a close eye on levels.

Environment Canterbury said staff were this morning assessing waterlogged stopbanks, which may have been compromised during receding flows.

They have warned people adjacent to rivers to remain vigilant.

River levels increased dramatically yesterday, with the flow of the Opihi River at State Highway 1 climbing from four cubic metres per second to a massive 967 cumecs by 5pm.

The Orari River at the gorge swelled from three cumecs on Monday morning to a 400 cumec peak yesterday afternoon.

The New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) is urging caution on highways affected by surface flooding in the region.

SH8 from Fairlie to lake Tekapo was closed, and drivers were urged to take care on SH8 from Fairlie and Geraldine due to surface flooding.

Motorists should also take care on SH83 from Duntroon to Kurow, particularly on the Kurow bridge, due to flooding.

The NZTA is also warning of high winds on SH6 between Harihari and Haast on the West Coast.

The MetService said further heavy rain was expected for eastern Marlborough and North Canterbury until late today, with up to 150mm expected about the Kaikoura ranges.

WeatherWatch said there would be rain in Marlborough, but it was not expected to be as heavy.

Nelson and Tasman were forecast to get showers or rain, while Southland was forecast to remain mostly dry, with some cloud and breezy easterlies.

In the North Island, there would be periods of showers in Bay of Plenty, Waikato and further north into Northland, with north to northeasterly winds.

Wet weather was also forecast for Hawkes Bay south through to Wellington.

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