A busy road is among those closed due to flooding as Christchurch braces for what the city council says could be the biggest rain event “for several decades”.
Avonside Dr, between Linwood Ave and Stanmore Rd in Linwood, and Goughs Rd and Long Bay Rd on Banks Peninsula were closed just after 5.30pm on Wednesday because of flooding, the Christchurch City Council said in a statement.
Peter Timbs Meats was forced to shut about 1pm after staff could not stop flood water entering the shop, and fire crews had been called to help homeowners deal with flooding in Sumner, North New Brighton, and Kaiapoi.
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It came as Christchurch braced for what could be the biggest rain event “in several decades”, the city council warned, with the wider Canterbury region forecast to receive two months worth of rain in a single day.
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A Fire and Emergency New Zealand spokesman said while crews had been called out to several weather-related jobs, they were not significant enough to trigger any evacuations yet.
David Timbs, manager of the Edgeware Rd butchers, said water levels outside the shop were “knee-high” after the drains could not cope with the downpour.
“The rain has been persistent all day and due to the fact the drains have not been fixed by Christchurch City Council we have flooded yet again,” he said.
“We have had a job number for the council for the last four years and still no action.”
The same thing had happened “three or four times a year”, for the last 10 years, he said.
The 53 staff had been sent home, with both the shop and the factory having to close as they could not get deliveries in or out, he said.
“It has been a massive inconvenience for the business.”
Timbs hoped the shop would reopen on Thursday.
“As soon as the water drops we’ve got a crew of cleaners who will come and sanitise the store, and hopefully we will be back in business [Thursday] morning.”
Christchurch City Council head of Three Waters Helen Beaumont initially said the “extreme rain event” was shaping up to be the biggest to hit Christchurch since the Wahine storm in 1968, but her statement was later amended to say it could be the biggest rain event “for several decades”.
“If we get as much rain as is currently forecast, there will be widespread flooding of roads and property,” she said.
“The most intense rain is due to hit Christchurch and Banks Peninsula between 8 and 11pm [on Wednesday]. Fortunately, that coincides with low tide, but we are still expecting there to be widespread flooding. If you live in a low-lying area, we advise you to start preparing your property now for potential flooding.”
Civil Defence teams were on stand-by in case any homes had to be evacuated.
MetService meteorologist Angus Hines said while Wednesday’s rainfall was significant, forecasters were not expecting it to surpass the mammoth rainfall and widespread flooding that hit Canterbury in May as it was not expected to be as prolonged or intense.
That event triggered a rare red warning and a state of local emergency for the entire region.
“I don’t believe this will even be the biggest event of the year, but that’s not to say this is going to be insignificant because there is a serious amount of rain coming down.”
During the May flooding, some inland areas recorded their largest rainfalls ever, including Mt Somers with 526mm in just 48 hours.
As of about 3pm on Wednesday, the highest amount of rainfall had been recorded near Culverden in North Canterbury, where 70mm had fallen, Hines said.
Christchurch Airport had recorded about 33mm, Rangiora 59mm, Le Bons Bay on Banks Peninsula 24mm, Lyttelton 19.2mm, and Akaroa 14.6mm.
The rain was expected to be lighter overnight and into Thursday morning, before picking up again on Friday – though not as much as on Wednesday, Hines said.
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Cantabrians should still be prepared for the possibility of slips, flooding and “tricky” driving conditions, he said.
“Anytime we have a severe weather warning that kind of stuff is a possibility.”
While the heavy rainfall had not closed any Christchurch roads as of 3.30pm, some heavy traffic congestion was being observed, a Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency spokesperson said.
Beaumont said the Christchurch council had prepared pumps for potential surface flooding on Maces Rd in Bromley, the Flockton area, and Ebbtide St in Southshore.
The stormwater storage basins upstream of the Heathcote River, which were designed to ease the pressure on the rivers, would probably reach capacity overnight.
Water from the storage basins would likely need to be released into the Heathcote on Thursday morning, which would cause a rapid rise in the water levels, she said.
“People living along the Heathcote should expect some flooding across the roads and onto their properties, and that may increase when we release water into the river.”
People living near any of the city’s waterways should not park their cars overnight on streets that were vulnerable to flooding, and residents with blocked drains or gutters should clear them if possible, Beaumont said.
Any residents with concerns about flooding should call the council on 03 941 8999, while anyone with concerns for their safety should call 111 immediately.
As of 1pm, surface flooding was affecting State Highway 1 between Blenheim and Waipara – a 251-kilometre stretch. The highway had been reduced to 60kmh temporarily near Claverly Rd in Hundalee,and was down to one lane near Darrochs Rd in Domett, a Waka Kotahi spokesperson said
“Please take care until this has been resolved,” they said.
The Waimakariri District Council had temporarily closed all fords in the district and Lees Valley Rd, which was damaged in the May storm.
Staff were inspecting road and stormwater infrastructure, and closing known flood areas ahead of time.
MetService meteorologist Dan Corrigan earlier said the rain was coming from warm, moist air from the north wrapping around a low pressure system.
“The warm air holds more moisture … meaning more rain,” he said.
The average rainfall for December was 42mm.
North of Christchurch there were reports of at least one house flooded in Leithfield Beach.
A Fire and Emergency New Zealand (FENZ) spokesman said crews from Amberley were being sent to Kowai St after receiving reports of a stream bursting its banks and threatening to flood at least two nearby houses and a garage about 5.40pm.
The Hurunui District Council was also sending a team to assist, the spokesman said.
Kenny Moore, a resident of the coastal village, said although the rivers were not overly high, there was a lot of surface water in the area.
“In Penfold Sq, there is probably 6 to 8 inches (15-20 centimres) of water,” he said.
“I would say we are going to have a pretty interesting night.”
Hurunui District Council chief executive Hamish Dobbie said there had been a “small amount” of surface water at Leithfield Beach.
Flood gates were pre-emptively opened on Tuesday as they knew the rain was coming, Dobbie said.