14 May 2015

Wellington chaos amid fresh warnings

8:21 pm on 14 May 2015

Violent rain storms have brought massive disruption to the lower North Island today, cutting roads, stopping all the trains and causing widespread flooding.

With traffic congested, train services down and limited bus services from the capital, some made the journey to Lower Hutt by foot.

A handful of people have made a near 18 kilometre journey to get home, which took them close to two hours. Some of them were still in their work clothes while rain poured down on them.

Traffic is now flowing more steadily on State Highway 2. The Transport Agency says all roads are now open but there will be long delays.

Gridlock in Wellington as a result of the rain.

Commuters on SH2 trying to get home. Photo: Lucy Lawrence

What you need to know

Photo Gallery - Wellington storm

State Highway 1, from Plimmerton to Paekakariki, is also now open but is restricted by flooding and slips on the coast road.

It will operate on a 10 minute schedule of allowing north and south bound commuters through.

Limited bus services are being provided but people are still urged to delay their journeys or consider staying put if they can.

More rain forecast

Civil Defence says high tides in Porirua and on the Kapiti Coast are due at 7pm when the flooding is expected to peak.

The Metservice says the heavy rain will ease off tonight but is likely to return tomorrow.

Meteorologist John Law says about 117 millimetres fell in Paraparaumu in the past 24 hours, and 96 millimetres in Lower Hutt.

He says the rain will start to ease off through the evening but warnings are still in place for the Kapiti Coast, Wellington and the Tararua Ranges.

He says they expect more rain to develop tomorrow, accompanied by some strong southerly winds.

Mr Law says thunderstorms are moving up across the Western side of the North Island and warnings are out for Taranaki and up towards the Eastern Bay of Plenty.

Gridlocked commuters

The Transport Agency says the roads are congested and as more people begin to make their way home, that situation will deteriorate.

The agency is advising against all non-essential travel and is asking motorists to plan ahead and to expect the unexpected.

It says crews are working nonstop to clear flooding and debris.

It says widespread flooding and slips can be expected across the roading network and extreme care is required on all roads.

If you have pictures of the flooding and would like to share pictures or video with us, please email it to: iwitness@radionz.co.nz

Commuters try to make their way out of the capital.

Commuters try to make their way out of the capital. Photo: Lucy Lawrence

Wellington Rail Station has closed, meaning no trains are operating in or out of the capital, while all trains in the lower North Island will be cancelled until tomorrow afternoon at the earliest in the wake of today's violent rain storms.

Commuters are being told they will need to make alternative arrangements for getting to work, or consider working from home.

Significant surface flooding and slips remain at several locations around the network.

Tranz Metro's general manager, David Shepherd, told Checkpoint the rain may have undermined the tracks, and services won't be running until inspections have been carried out.

Although buses will replace the trains, Mr Shepherd said the services will be limited.

Burst pipe

The Capital and Coast District Health Board (DHB) said a burst main pipe in Porirua was affecting the water supply to the Kenepuru Hospital and the Porirua mental health campus.

The DHB said it was not clear how long it would take council workers to repair the damage.

Staff were being asked to conserve water until the situation was resolved, and emergency drinking water supplies were available.

Deluge in the Hutt Valley

In Lower Hutt, all eyes are on the Hutt River, where surface flooding is causing problems for motorists in the centre of Lower Hutt and Petone, and authorities are urging people to stay home unless their travel is essential.

The city's mayor, Ray Wallace, told Checkpoint the river hit its peak at midday and has been coming down ever since, but teams are on standby in case it begins to rise again.

Mr Wallace said so far no homes had been flooded but the rain is still coming down and there would be more on the way.

People travelling to the Hutt Valley from Wellington are in for a long wait, with parts of some roads under more than a metre of water.

The Transport Agency said State Highway 2 had been reopened to one lane between the Ngauranga Interchange and Dowse, meaning people can travel directly to the Hutt.

However, Acting Wellington Highways Manager Neil Walker said that would take some time.

He said the sheer amount of rain and flooding had made any form of travel on the roads difficult.

Flooding across Petone

In Lower Hutt the council was urging motorists to move their vehicles away from the river banks.

Petone's main shopping street, Jackson Street, started to flood late morning.

The Hutt City Council says flooding has closed Block Road, and the Riverbank carpark.

A spokesperson said the Hutt River was running very high, and surrounding streets have been closed

She said people were being asked to avoid Victoria Street, at the Ewen Bridge end where there was flooding .

Council staff are monitoring the Waiwhetu Stream.

Flooding in Petone's Jackson Street.

Flooding in Petone's Jackson Street. Photo: RNZ / Shannon McKenna