19 Jun 2015

Cold, dark night for storm-hit South Island

7:35 pm on 19 June 2015

More than 3000 properties in Canterbury are likely to be without power overnight after heavy snow damaged power lines - while rain continues to fall on the West Coast.

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Heavy snow knocked out power lines close to the towns of Fairlie and Geraldine yesterday and, at one point, about 4500 homes were without electricity.

Alpine Energy said 1800 of its customers had still not been reconnected. The company has apologised, and said its crews would be out over the weekend.

Another 1500 properties near Christchurch also remained cut off. Their lines company, Orion, said those customers were also likely to be without power overnight.

Snow on Old West Coast Road near Waddington in the Selywn District on Friday.

Snow on Old West Coast Road near Waddington in the Selywn District on Friday. Photo: RNZ / Sally Murphy

Families in Hokitika on the West Coast are still being evacuated after heavy rain caused rising rivers and flooding.

Westland District Council chief executive Tanya Winter has been coordinating the town's emergency response.

Several flooded homes and a rest home have been evacuated and, with rain still pouring in the town, Ms Winter told Checkpoint the requests for help were ongoing.

"We are going to be evacuating a family from Kaniere, so we are working with the Red Cross and the Fire Service to make that happen," she said. "We have just booked that family into a motel for the weekend."

Ms Winter said Red Cross teams would return to the town tomorrow to help people get rid of wet furniture and carpets.

Several highways in Canterbury, Otago and Southland were closed overnight but nearly all have now re-opened. A number of snow, slip and flooding warnings for drivers remain in place.

The stretch of SH6 from Lake Hawea to Makarora is expected to be closed at 10pm tonight to help workers clear a slip, with the highway expected to open again at 7am on Saturday.

Flooding at Aratika on the West Coast on Friday 19 June.

Flooding at Aratika on the West Coast on Friday 19 June. Photo: Katie Milne

In the North Island, the Kapiti Coast District Council warned people to stay away from local waterways this afternoon as the storm moved north.

Meteorologist Rob Kerr said the storm was moving north with up to 250 millimetres expected in the next 24 hours in the Tararua Ranges and up to 100 millimetres on the Kapiti Coast.

More bad weather was expected to hit parts of the North Island over the next 48 hours.

Kapiti resident Bob Taylor clears drains in case it floods again.

Kapiti Coast resident Bob Taylor clears his drains in preparation for the storm. Photo: RNZ/ Alex Ashton

Second night of flooding ahead for West Coast

Overnight, severe flooding in Hokitika inundated the central business district and forced the evacuation of a rest home and 30 properties.

About 400mm of rain fell on the West Coast in the 24 hours to 6am and more rain was expected tonight.

West Coast Civil Defence regional manager Chris Raine said the rest home was threatened by floodwaters late last night and 46 residents had to be moved out.

Some were taken to another rest home while others were taken to Greymouth Hospital, he said.

Flooding in Hokitika

Severe flooding in Hokitika inundated the central business district overnight. Photo: Twitter / @pandasport

Hokitika Primary School was closed but all other schools in the flood-affected area were thought to have stayed open. The school said most of its teachers lived in Greymouth and the main road between the two centres was restricted to four-wheel-drive vehicles.

A couple and their dog had to be rescued by inflatable boat and helicopter early this morning from their home near Kumara after flood water left them stranded.

Another household on the West Coast - the Dempsters - was woken by neighbours and told to evacuate and go to a nearby marae.

Belinda Dempster said her house was like a castle with a moat. She said that, as the family left, water was pouring down the hillsides and the road out was severely damaged.

She said the family - including her husband and four children - and neighbours had to jump a half-metre gap where a culvert had collapsed, and taken the road with it.

"We went to the lowest point and they said 'be careful, we might put a plank across' but then they said 'let's just get everybody out', because at that stage we didn't know what was gonna happen."

Flooding at Aratika on the West Coast on Friday 19 June.

Flooding at Aratika on the West Coast on Friday 19 June. Photo: Katie Milne

Ms Dempster said there was no damage to the family's house when they returned at about 7am.

Hokitika resident Max Dowell said this morning that his garage had been flooded. He said his personal rain gauge recorded that 241mm of rain had fallen on his home in the past 24 hours.

More snow and rain ahead

MetService meteorologist Rebekah LaBar said the snow level in Canterbury and Otago would "gradually rise today" from about 200 metres to 500 metres.

"The worst is over but I hate to say that it's going to be improving a whole lot ... It's still going to be a pretty rainy, showery time."

She said snow got down to lower levels than expected yesterday, with the Canterbury towns of Ashburton and Timaru both receiving snow showers.

Ms LaBar said rain and snow would continue today for parts of Canterbury and Otago but the cold front would slowly move north.

Waikato, Northland and the Bay of Plenty were expected to catch the storm tomorrow as it moved northward.

Parts of Taranaki and the Central Plateau were also expected to receive more rain today and into tomorrow with snow likely for the Desert Road.

Snow at Lake Hayes Estate in Queenstown.

Snow at Lake Hayes Estate in Queenstown on Thursday. Photo: Elle McCammon

Snow on road between Ashburton and Methven on Thursday.

Snow on the road between Ashburton and Methven on Thursday. Photo: Twitter / @demileesinclair

Snow in Methven on Thursday

Snow in Methven on Thursday Photo: Twitter / @demileesinclair