Storm-weary Northlanders hunker down for third night
10 Jul 2014
Storm-weary Northlanders are preparing to hunker down for a third night – many of them still without power – as the effects of ongoing bad weather, including renewed flooding, start to bite.
Civil Defence officials say while today's rain and wind has not been especially severe by itself, its effects are being compounded by the events that have preceded it, including infrastructural damage from high winds and the large amount of water already around the region.
Claire Nyberg, spokesperson for the Northland Civil Defence Emergency Management (CDEM) Group says electricity companies have worked incredibly hard and have restored power to thousands of people since the storm first struck.
However, as of about 3pm today Far North power company Top Energy was warning it expected roughly 5000 customers – many of whom had been without power for three days – may face several more days before they can be reconnected.
Affected areas included roughly 1300 in Pukenui township, but also clusters of 200 or so in smaller areas including settlements like Awanui, Mitimiti, Kohukohu, Peria and others. In other spots around the Far North individual customers were also being affected.
Officials say while there have been no requests for assistance with food or water at this stage, obviously this will be a concern that will need to be addressed given the likely prolonged nature of some outages and the fact rain and wind is forecast to continue into the weekend. Addressing this will potentially be a key task going forward and people with any welfare concerns should contact their local district council in the first instance for advice.
Meanwhile, as of 3.25pm electricity company Northpower, which supplies those in the Whangarei and Kaipara districts, reported power has been restored to 650 of its customers, leaving less than 1000 now without power. A company spokesman repeated an earlier plea for locals to stay clear of downed power lines and treat them as live at all times.
Roading officials report a number of closures/reduced lanes around the region and as high tide draws near about 5pm on the east coast are warning of more likely closures and potential flooding in places like Kaeo, Kawakawa and Moerewa.
Ms Nyberg says information about any ongoing local district council road and State Highway closures/issues in Northland is available from the Automobile Association website via www.AAroadwatch.co.nz or the NZTA website www.nzta.govt.nz Those sites contain maps and brief description of closed/affected roads and an indication of when the issue/s involved is likely to be resolved.
However, despite the best efforts of all concerned, Ms Nyberg says the length and changeable nature of the weather event is making it difficult to accurately capture in real-time exactly which Northland roads and highways are open or affected.
Ms Nyberg says on that basis, officials are continuing to urge people not to travel unless absolutely necessary.
She says on the telecommunications, sewage treatment and drinking water fronts, an ongoing lack of electricity is continuing to cause potential problems.
The Northland District Health today issued a general region-wide advisory warning people to stay out of waterways, floodwaters and harbours to avoid contact with contaminated water.
Warnings have been directed not just at those who could be exposed to water contaminated with sewage and other nasties when carrying out clean up and repair work from storm damage, but also at shellfish gatherers, swimmers, and others who could be exposed to risks in coming days, and in some cases, weeks.
In a similar vein, people who have been without power for extended periods are being warned not to refreeze frozen goods that have thawed due to the health risks involved.
Meanwhile, Ms Nyberg says for the second time in just weeks, parts of Northland have now received the equivalent of more than an entire month's rainfall in only a day or two.
Northland Regional Council figures show that between 8am on Tuesday and noon today, a total of 254mm of rain had fallen at Puhipuhi, north of Whangarei, more than the 234mm that would usually fall there for the entire month of July.
Over the same period between 8am Tuesday and noon today, 250mm had fallen on the Glenbervie Forest (July monthly average 190mm) , 240mm at Kaikohe (July monthly average 172mm) and 224.5mm at Otiria (July monthly average 158mm).
Between 8am Tuesday and noon today 190.5mm had fallen at Kaeo, 182.6mm at the Northland Regional Council's Whangarei offices, 175.5mm on the Hikurangi Swamp, 164.5mm on Kaipara's Tutamoe Ranges, 162mm at Kerikeri, 129.5mm at Ngunguru, 63.5mm at Maungaturoto, 57.6mm at Dargaville and 48.5mm at Larmer Rd in the southern Kaitaia area.
She says officials are currently on a heightened alert and will be closely monitoring the situation overnight.
Information will continue to be posted as required, including on the Northland CDEM Group's Facebook page – www.facebook.com/civildefencenorthland and the Northland Regional Council's website www.nrc.govt.nz/civildefence