One of the heaviest downpours in living memory soaked the Horowhenua region at the weekend, flooding houses and closing roads, and caused mayhem for motorists.

The heavens sent almost half the average amount of monthly August rain in one day on Saturday, with the big wet arriving at lunchtime.

Some senior residents said it was the worst flooding they had ever seen. Major sporting fixtures, including senior netball and hockey season finals, were canned. Conditions were deemed unplayable.

Cornmer of Cambridge Street and Tyne Street
Cornmer of Cambridge Street and Tyne Street

Flooding meant the Horowhenua District Emergency Operations Centre activated. Fire service, police, HDC contractors and officers were assisting where necessary, and sandbags were deployed in some areas.

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A public warning was issued by Horowhenua District Council urging people to stay home where possible, and to drive with care. It also urged people to check on their neighbours, friends and family.

Easton Way, Okarito Avenue, Newport Street and Buller Road copped the worst of the flooding and were cordoned off, while the Mobil Service Station on Oxford Street was closed for five hours with its pumps under water.

Some conscientious residents were mindful of the damage the wake caused by cars could do to properties and diverted traffic away from problems areas, although were frustrated by the amount of people ignoring the temporary roadblocks.

Cars driving through the flooded areas caused waves that forced water into homes and garages.

The flooding was concerning for residents of Okarito Avenue, as significant infrastructural work to address the issue in recent years, including new stormwater drains and a pump station, failed to stop the problem.

Roslyn Road
Roslyn Road

One resident had her house was on the market and was forced to cancel an Open Home planned for that afternoon.

Meanwhile, Mobil Service Station on Oxford Street was closed for five hours with its pumps under water.

Attendant Colin Murphy said water ran through from the service lane behind the station and into the forecourt, submerging the pumps and forcing them to shut down power.

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Further up the road, Ross McColl Cars staff emptied the lot and got their vehicles to higher ground. Once the water had subsided, the forecourt had to be cleaned.

HDC contractors and council officers responded to calls for sandbags, which were provided to at risk residents. Although there were no reports of anyone being evacuated, there was an Okarito Avenue home that had a raw sewerage issue, so was self-evacuated.

Metservice meteorologist Andrew James said most of the 36.6mm that fell on Saturday arrived around lunchtime.

April Booth was stranded from her home
April Booth was stranded from her home

"So the 36.6mm was not a staggering amount, to be honest, but most of that fell in the hour before and the hour after lunch," he said,

Between 11am and noon there was 6.4mm of rain recorded, while 16.6mm of rain fell between noon and 1pm. There was 26.8mm of rainfall recorded in three hours, he said.

The record rainfall for Levin in one hour was 26mm, which fell on November 26, 1993. The threshold for a heavy rain event was 6mm, he said.

Having 16mm of rain fall in one hour was an event that happened every 2.5 years on average, but surface flooding occurred due to a range of contributing factors, like saturation.

The Horowhenua District Emergency Operations Centre has been deactivated at approximately 6.30pm. As the rain stopped, the surface flooding began to subside, although people were still urged to drive with caution.