A wet and wild weather system has bashed the West Coast today, forcing the closure of schools, roads and potentially standing students for the night.

Areas of the coast have been drenched, the Ivory Glacier receiving 391mm of rain - more than Clyde, Cromwell and Alexandra saw in the entire of 2017.

The Hokitika River was threatening to sweep away a campervan parked on one of the braided river's islands.

Westland District Council mayor Bruce Smith said the second alarm for the river had been activated, and there was still another few hundred millimetres of rain forecast.

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He says the first alarm is when it hits a level that is considered a flood, the third is extreme and if that goes off they will have some problems "for sure".

Civil Defence has been activated in Westland as heavy rain hammers the West Coast.

The MetService says Hokitika copped more than 800 lightning strikes in a 20-minute period this morning.

Elsewhere, eight schools were closed on the West Coast due to the heavy rain and flooding, the Ministry of Education told the Herald.

Deputy secretary sector enablement and support Katrina Casey said the Ministry is doing what it can to support schools and parents.

"Our local staff have been in contact with the schools and have offered our support where needed," she said.

"The school and road closures affect 900 students.

"We encourage parents to keep in contact with schools and early learning centres tomorrow following today's severe weather."

South Westland Area School principal Mark Caplen said the school had closed at lunchtime but roads north and south were closed due to flooding.

A police escort was currently underway to drop off some staff and students, he said.

The list of schools closed:

β€’ Whataroa School

β€’ Haast School

β€’ Ross School

β€’ Kokatihi-Kowhitirangi School

β€’ Kaniere School

β€’ Westland High School

β€’ Hokitika School

β€’ St Mary's School Hokitika

Casey advised parents to check school early tomorrow or check websites or Facebook pages to see if they will open.

"The best information will come from schools and early learning services themselves as they make decisions," she said.

Campervan stranded by floodwaters at the Hokitika River. Photo / RIki Sprigginz
Campervan stranded by floodwaters at the Hokitika River. Photo / RIki Sprigginz

West Coast response manager Senior Sergeant Brent Cook said police have been supporting those in the area any way they can.

"Our job, while working with Civil Defence, is to ensure the safety of students and those at the school," he said.

"We escorted some kids home in police vehicles and worked with the school and mums and dads to make sure measures were taken to ensure everyone's safety."

Some students south of Harihari may have to spend the night as it was unclear if even police could access roads around Whataroa due to slips.

"A convoy has set out from Harihari to escort several students and teachers home to Ross.

"A decision will be made later on whether a similar operation takes place to transport students South to Franz Josef after consultation with the relevant authorities."

The Hokitika River is in a good flood. Not sure if the Toyota will float or not.

Posted by Bruce Smith Westland Mayor. on Wednesday, 7 November 2018

The conditions have caused parts of roads on the West Coast to crumble and fall away, forcing the NZ Transport Agency to close main highways.

State Highway 6 from Hokitika to Haast and State Highway 73 Arthurs Pass between Arthurs Pass township and Jackson will likely remain closed overnight.

Drivers in the area are being urged by NZTA not to travel unless it is absolutely essential.

"If the road remains closed overnight, a full assessment of the route will be made at first light tomorrow," NZTA Regional Systems Manager Pete Connors said.

"It is still raining steadily in the region, and there is widespread surface flooding and several slips that our crews have been unable access.

"The situation is being constantly assessed, and our primary consideration is the safety of road users, as well as the safety of crews working to clear slips and unblock culverts."

MetService meteorologist Gerrit Keyser said at about 11am the highest rainfall totals for the past 12 hours were in Arthur's Pass with 112mm, Mt Cook Village with 102mm, Franz Josef with 81.5mm and Milford with 75mm.

Strong winds were also starting to ramp up about the Canterbury high country, Wellington and southern Wairarapa. Gusts could reach 150km/h in exposed parts of Canterbury, and 130km/h in other affected areas.

The strongest winds recorded so far were 80km/h at a station near Lumsden in Southland, and 65km/h at Le Bons Bay on Banks Peninsula.

Keyser said the strongest winds were expected to kick in about 3pm in the Canterbury high country.

Road closed at 9.15am from Hari Hari to Franz. 08-11-2018

BREAKING NEWS. Road closed at 9.15am from Hari Hari to Franz.

Posted by Bruce Smith Westland Mayor. on Wednesday, 7 November 2018

The heaviest rain was expected in the western and southern districts of the South Island and also about the headwaters of the Canterbury and Otago lakes and rivers.

Heavy rain warnings were in place for many of those areas through to tonight, with some spots expecting to receive up to 300mm of rain. There was potential for flooding and slips.

The NZ Transport Agency has issued several road warnings in the South Island.

In Nelson, State Highway 60 from Riwaka to Takaka has a warning in place for heavy rain, and in Canterbury parts of SH73 and SH7 have warnings of strong winds, meaning care was required by all high-sided vehicles and motorcycles.

- Additional reporting: Otago Daily Times