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Flash flood swamps Greytown streets

A sudden cloud burst over South Wairarapa yesterday had fire officers inundated with calls, businesses flooded and garages pumped.

Fire and Emergency [Fenz] said the rain bombarded Greytown with 12 callouts in less than two hours.

“It’s been quite extensive, all focused around Greytown,” a Fenz spokesperson said.

“It’s been residential and commercial, and the brigade has assisted all those people just getting water out and clearing drains.”

Fenz said there had been no rescues with vehicles or people becoming stuck in floodwaters. However, a tree had come down across a driveway and multiple businesses had flooded.

“There have been a couple of calls up north with lightning, but Greytown has really copped it. It’s interesting because the rain radar suggests that it should be more widespread.”

Featherston residents mobilised in anticipation of the weather bomb, with South Wairarapa councillors and community board members inspecting drains and organising sandbags.

Community board member Warren Maxwell said resources were being pooled at Kiwi Hall in preparation.

“Featherston quarry operator Peter Warren has already dropped off a truckload of sand, and at short notice.

“We have sand and sandbags and people power. We’re preparing the hall in case people need it tonight.”

Maxwell said the issue of flooding and climate change was “top of the agenda” for the councillors and board members, who were also in touch with local civil defence coordinators.

“We are seeing more and more of these events, these so-called 100-year storms. This is my first rodeo, so we’re keeping the lines of communication open and preparing in case we need help quickly.”

Multiple businesses on Greytown’s Main Rd were flooded, with firefighters rushing from property to property.

“We had it coming in the front and the back,” one business owner said.

“It was flooding in minutes – there were massive claps of thunder and then it just kept going.

“A couple of the employees – they’ve lived here all their lives and they said they’d never seen anything like it.

“I mean we’ve seen it full but we’ve never seen it come under the door before.”

They said a “substantial” sinkhole had opened up on the pavement and they had put signs around it to prevent people from falling in.

Metservice issued a severe thunderstorm watch and heavy rain warning for the region at 2.30pm yesterday.

Heavy rain was expected to fall in the Tararua District and South Wairarapa for 15 hours until 5am today, with between 100-200mm of rain forecast in certain areas.

Metservice said peak rates would be between 15-25mm per hour, or up to 40mm per hour in localised downpours. It said heavy rain and hail were expected and warned intense rainfall could cause surface and flash flooding, particularly in low-lying areas.

The Wellington Region Emergency Management Office issued a warning to residents to prepare for the weather onslaught by clearing debris from gutters, bringing pets indoors and postponing outdoor activities and non-essential travel.

“Make sure livestock are not gathered under isolated trees or anything that presents a risk from a lightning strike.”

Mary Argue
Mary Argue
Mary Argue is a reporter at the Wairarapa Times-Age with an interest in justice and the region’s emergency services, regularly covering Masterton District Court, Fire and Emergency and Police.

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