Desperate to catch a flight, Kristy Rutherford and her family drove through a severely flooded rural Canterbury road with water at times lapping at the car windows.

The family from Tauranga had been visiting Rutherford's father-in-law in Geraldine and were travelling to Christchurch airport when they encountered the flooding on Thompson's Track.

"It was incredible. I've never seen anything like it before, ever," she said.

Pretty much the entire length of road, which connects Geraldine and Rakaia, was flooded with the water varying in depth from just touching the car's undercarriage to up to the windows.

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"A truck in the distance, the water was actually up to its lights."

The car the family was travelling in was her father-in-law's Lexus, which could have its cab raised so they were able to make it through the flooding easily enough, but others weren't so lucky.

Two other cars had become stuck in the floodwaters and were being towed out by some farmers, Rutherford told the Herald.

"It was quite freaky really, actually. I mean if you got stuck there there's not a lot around."

She said they were waving at other drivers to warn them to turn back if possible.

But Rutherford's kids, aged 16 months, 4 and 13, were thrilled rather than scared by the unusual sight.

"There was water splashing all over the windows, they found it extremely exciting."

Kristy Rutherford, left, Isabel Rutherford, 16 months, Duncan Rutherford, Olivia Rutherford 4, and Sarah Rutherford, 13. Photo / Supplied
Kristy Rutherford, left, Isabel Rutherford, 16 months, Duncan Rutherford, Olivia Rutherford 4, and Sarah Rutherford, 13. Photo / Supplied

The journey took about three hours, an hour longer than usual, and the family made it to their flight just in time.

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"We had used a bit of common sense and decided to leave an hour earlier than we planned to, which was fortunate.

"We flew in a little plane so we thought it was going to be quite a bumpy ride. But it wasn't too bad actually."

They're now back home and are happy to be warm and dry.

"I think we got out at a good time," Rutherford said.

"We were in Timaru a couple of days ago, so seeing what it's like there now, it's crazy. My father-in-law won't be going far from the property I don't think."

An aerial view of the flooding in Oamaru. Photo / Damien Mcnamara, via Facebook
An aerial view of the flooding in Oamaru. Photo / Damien Mcnamara, via Facebook

Meanwhile, the NZTA has warned South Island motorists to avoid any unnecessary travel on State Highway 1 between Christchurch and Oamaru after the MetService issued a severe weather warning for parts of the South Island.

"Many parts of the road are near impassable and conditions are treacherous. Essential travel only and roads may close at short notice," it said.

The NZTA advises travellers using South Island State Highways this weekend to be prepared by checking the weather forecast and the NZ Transport Agency's Traffic & Travel web page for the latest info on road area warnings and closures.

Weather-related flight cancellations

It seems the Rutherford family were among the lucky ones - extreme weather, including cross-winds and heavy downpours, is causing headaches for other domestic travellers.

Several flights to and from Dunedin and Queenstown airports have been cancelled or diverted today.

Both Jetstar and Air New Zealand flights have been affected, with the Highlanders' scheduled flight from Dunedin to Christchurch at 5.30pm among the weather-related cancellations.

The team is supposed to play against the Crusaders tomorrow night in the Garden City but may be forced to stay in Dunedin until tomorrow morning as an increasing number of flights are cancelled.

Jetstar has cancelled six regional flights today, including one at 4.15pm, and two domestic jet flights have been diverted due to weather - one Auckland to Dunedin and one Auckland to Queenstown.​

Air New Zealand flights between Dunedin and Auckland and Dunedin and Christchurch have also been cancelled.

Air New Zealand is advising customers booked to travel to and from Dunedin to consult the arrivals and departures information on their website for up to date schedule information.

Customers who no longer require to travel now automatically have the option to transfer their booking to another date or hold the fare value in credit for up to 12 months toward future travel without the need to advise their contact centre today, an Air New Zealand spokeswoman said.

Air New Zealand would work with customers still requiring travel to arrange re-accommodation on alternative services.