20 Nov 2018

Rising floodwaters threaten Otago township, block roads

7:13 pm on 20 November 2018

The Taieri River is moving rapidly and rising as floodwaters come increasingly close to topping the banks protecting the township of Henley.

Rising floodwaters threaten Henley.

Rising floodwaters threaten Henley. Photo: RNZ / Tim Brown

Most of the routes out of the small settlement are now cut off, but residents are resolute and say it is nothing they haven't seen before.

Most of the houses are elavated and will have some protection if the river tops its banks, but flooding can also come around the rear of the settlement as rainwater pours off the hills and into paddocks.

Flooding in Henley.

Flooding in Henley. Photo: RNZ / Tim Brown

Motorists around Otago have been told to avoid non-urgent travel for the rest of the day because of flooded highways.

The NZ Transport Agency (NZTA) says highways are under water and are closed, or down to one lane in parts, and slips have made it difficult to get around.

A number of local roads are closed and will remain closed overnight until they can be assessed tomorrow and deemed safe to re-open.

The closed roads include:

* Clutha Valley Road, Balclutha to Clydevale

* Gormack Street, Balclutha at Moir Street

* Mitchell's Flat Rd - Rutherglen to Waitahuna

* Black Bridge Rd Tokoiti at Elliotvale end

* Elliotvale Rd at Toko Mouth Rd end

* Koi Flat Rd from Oyster Creek Rd to Pomahaka Rd

* Wooded Hill Rd, Kelso

* Ardmore Rd at Kelso

* Paradise Flat Rd, Park Hill

* Greenvale Rd, Waikaka

* Winslade Rd, Kelso

* Titri Rd, Waihola

* Allison Rd, Milton

* North Branch Rd, Milton

* Finch Rd, Milton

* Bruce Rd, Milton

* Table Hill from the one lane bridge to Bruce Rd, Milton

* Papatowai Highway at Caberfeidh

* Franklin Rd, Evans Flat

* Tuapeka Flat Rd

* Four Mile Creek Rd, Lawrence

* Crowley Rd, Lawrence

* West Otago Rd

* Pomahaka Rd

* MacFarlane Rd, Clydevale

* Ross Rd, Clydevale

* Pomahaka River Rd, Clydevale

* Burkes Ford Rd, Clydevale

* Lakeside Rd, Kaitangata at the Railway over bridge

Locals have been asked to avoid all unnecessary travel and stay off the road if possible. The local council said drivers should also be vigilant for any debris in flood waters and also avoid driving down flooded streets or rubber necking as it created bow waves that caused further damage to people's properties.

NZTA said there was also a snow and ice warning on the Lindis Pass and State Highway 85 and strong winds were bringing down tree branches, making driving dangerous.

Flooding in Henley.

Flooding in Henley. Photo: RNZ / Tim Brown

Dunedin City Council spokesperson Sandy Graham said the rain had affected much of the city.

"We're starting to see a little bit of surface flooding in South Dunedin and West Harbours, so it's quite widespread but we've managed to as well as can be expected given the rain that we've had."

She said the Taieri River was also a concern.

Ms Graham said slips were a problem, with one hitting State Highway 88 between Dunedin and Port Chalmers.

Rain has eased, although almost 50mm fell in the city today and river levels remain high across Otago

Flooding in Henley.

Flooding in Henley. Photo: RNZ / Tim Brown

Forecaster Claire Flynn said there was risk of more flooding and slips.

She said motorists should take care.

However, she said the heavy rain is forecast to ease tonight.

Dunedin residents have been asked to limit showers and the use of washing machines, to ease pressure on wastewater systems.

The Dunedin City Council has opened an emergency operations centre to monitor the weather.

Mosgiel and South Dunedin residents can collect sandbags if they're concerned about flooding.

The sandbags are at the Memorial Park and the Hotel Taieri car parks in Mosgiel, and at the Ice Stadium car park in South Dunedin.

State Highway 1 where it cross the Leith River in Dunedin.

State Highway 1 where it cross the Leith River in Dunedin. Photo: Josh Thomas

The Clutha District Council is urging people to stay off the roads as widespread flooding continues to hit the area.

Rain is continuing to fall in the district and many rivers and creeks are flooding or near flooding.

A council spokesperson said contractors have been closing roads, but it is impossible to signpost every road affected in such a widespread event.

MetService meteorologist Karl Loots said the rain has been heavy and persistent from Southland to South Canterbury.

Meanwhile, a heavy snow warning is in place for Central Otago, Southern Lakes and northern parts of Southland.