3 Jun 2015

Heavy rain, flooding in Dunedin

10:28 pm on 3 June 2015

Torrential rain hit Otago today, with flooding causing the evacuation of a rest home and cutting power to about 150 homes in Dunedin.

View a gallery of photos of south Dunedin during Wednesday's flooding:

The Fire Service said people reported streets and homes being flooded, especially in south Dunedin, after overnight rain. The bad weather continued today, with at least 15 roads closed around the city.

Otago: What you need to know - weather, roads, buses and schools

Aurora Energy cut power to about 150 homes in Dunedin's East Taieri after flooding submerged electrical equipment. It said the power would remain off until the water level subsided.

Dunedin City Council road maintenance engineer Peter Standring said some residents in south Dunedin had used sandbags to protect property and had considered moving out.

Mr Standring said the stormwater system had reached saturation point.

"We're seeing a lot of water actually coming back up out of mud tanks, so it tells you our system is actually fully charged and pushing water back up onto the roading network."

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Flooding near Dunedin's Hillside Road at about midday today. Photo: RNZ / Ian Telfer

South Dunedin resident Neil Ivory said the council had failed to maintain drain systems, which he said caused flooding in parts of the city to be worse than necessary.

He said floodwaters had already entered the bathroom of his house and were close to entering the main part.

"I've got the back door open and I'm sort of monitoring - it's probably about 20-odd mil' below the step at the moment and once it enters over that, well, I'm pretty much buggered, unless I go and live upstairs."

Mr Ivory said he had complained to the council previously about the need to clean the drains.

"I've lived here long enough to know that we've experienced this before. We've complained, the sumps have been cleaned out, and then rains like this don't end up like they are," he said.

"I've been here long enough to know and see and experience how it works."

But Mr Standring said the city's stormwater systems could only cope with a certain level of rain and were at capacity.

Flooded northbound lanes on the southern motorway at Green Island.

Flooded northbound lanes on Dunedin's southern motorway at Green Island. Photo: SUPPLIED / NZTA

The army was placed on standby in Mosgiel in case the Silver Stream burst its banks - and a military Unimog was used to help ferry children out of Abbotsford School.

The Otago Regional Council said late on Wednesday that it believed the danger of major flooding from the stream had passed.

Dunedin's Civil Defence also said it believed the worst of the city's flooding had passed, with co-ordinator Neil Brown saying the heavy rain had started to ease and the forecast was for it to ease further.

Schools, rest home and hospital affected

By mid-afternoon, the floodwaters had already swamped a rest home on Dunedin's Hillside Road, forcing a full evacuation.

Radius Care general manager of operations Jane Smart said some of Radius Fulton's 94 residents went home to family members but staff had to find alternative accommodation for 78 others.

Flooded Dunedin resthome.

This rest home on Dunedin's Hillside Road has water in the hallways and several bedrooms. Photo: RNZ / Ian Telfer

The Southern District Health Board has set up an emergency operations centre in Dunedin.

A spokesperson said all critical areas at Dunedin Hospital were functioning well although there were leaks in some buildings and some flooding at a loading dock.

Staff were assisting a number of aged care residential facilities at risk of flooding in the city and trying to identify placement beds if required.

Seaside school St Clair said most of its 450 pupils went home early, with flooding limiting access to the school.

Bathgate Park School did not officially close but most of its students were picked up early by their parents. Principal Whetu Cormick said there was flooding around the school, which is about two kilometres from the sea.

In other parts of Otago, the New Zealand Transport Agency also issued a warning for drivers, with flooding on parts of State Highway 8 between the Lindis Pass and Cromwell. A number of roads were shut in Clutha.

More heavy rain forecast

A heavy rain warning has been kept in place for Dunedin and Clutha but rain is expected to slowly start easing overnight.

MetService duty forecaster Emma Blake said 70 millimetres of rain fell during the morning.

"The warning lasts through to 2am tomorrow morning," she said, speaking shortly after midday today.

"We're expecting between 80 to 100 millimetres to accumulate on top of what has already fallen, especially about the ranges and also in the vicinity of Dunedin City."