State of Emergency Declared as Torrential Rains Lash Southland, North Island Witnesses Warmest September


A state of emergency has permeated the Southland District due to torrential rainfall, simultaneously as Hawke’s Bay in the North Island witnesses New Zealand’s third warmest September in recorded history. Neville Cook, chairman of the Civil Defence Emergency Management Group, ratified the statewide emergency declaration as the ominous predictions of continued heavy rain led to an extension of the warning until 8 PM.

The imperative for such a declaration emanated from the need for Emergency Management Southland to readily address potential areas of concern in the wake of the incessant rainfall that assailed Southland throughout the day. Group controller Simon Mapp of Emergency Management Southland cautioned residents to evade the floodwaters as the surging volumes had strained wastewater and stormwater systems across many Southland towns. He urged individuals to stay at home, keeping off the roads, due to the significant surface flooding impacting both urban and rural areas.

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Community emergency hubs have sprung up at the Croydon Lodge in Gore and the Mataura Community Centre to extend aid to those in need. This follows the state of emergency declared by Gore District Mayor Ben Bell on the previous afternoon. The region saw approximately 72 millimetres of rainfall in the morning, engendering severe surface flooding. With the stormwater and wastewater networks overwhelmed in Gore and Mataura, residential areas face the imminent threat of flooding. Though no evacuations were necessitated, residents were strongly advised to stay indoors and avoid travel.

The continuous rainfall is expected to persist until late into the evening. Floodwater is reportedly affecting both rural and town roads, and Mapp advises against walking through these waters due to potential hidden debris, uneven surfaces, and the likelihood of contamination.

The severe weather shows little sign of receding. Fourteen severe weather warnings and watches have been issued. Westland, Fiordland, Southland, Canterbury, and Otago should brace themselves for up to 300mm of additional rain throughout the night. MetService meteorologist Clare O’Connor reports that rainfall in Fiordland surpassed the 100mm mark within 12 hours.

Farmers in Canterbury and northern Otago are cautioned of a significant snow event set to occur, posing potential threats to their lambing and calving season. Anticipated snowfall around these regions could reach up to 40 centimetres in areas above 400 metres, severely impacting the local rural community. Commensurate with the snowfall, temperatures will undergo a drastic dip, contrasting starkly with the recent warm weather.

In the midst of this turmoil in the South Island, North Island experiences sizzling temperatures. Wairoa, in Hawke’s Bay, marked a September record of 29.6C, superseding the previous high of 27.7C in Hastings recorded in September 1955. However, a shift in the weather pattern seems imminent, with MetService issuing heavy rain watches for Mt Taranaki and the Tararua Ranges, and the likely introduction of more watches and warnings further north in the ensuing days.

Overall, the weather conditions across New Zealand paint the picture of a country grappling with two ends of an extreme spectrum. As the South Island combats ferocious rain and snow, the North Island braces for a drastic downward turn after a brief spell of unseasonable warmth. Amid the tumultuous conditions, the resilience and spirit of the New Zealand populace remain unshaken.