Friday, August 29, 2008

Lights out for South Island?

The South Island's electricity supply is hanging by a thread this afternoon as a pylon carrying power from the North Island threatens to buckle in the Marlborough Sounds.

All the recent crap weather is certainly having an effect on things.

Have you got a way of cooking dinner if you don't have power? Gas cookers are ideal, but a barbecue will do if you have nothing more efficient. Just don't forget to check that your gas bottle is tested, and not empty!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Kia Takatū

Today marked the launch of the Ministry of Civil Defence & Emergency Management's new school resource Kia Takatū - the Māori language version of What's the Plan, Stan?

The national launch took place at Te Kura Māori o Porirua, a Māori language immersion school in Waitangirua. My first powhiri! I was most impressed. There were speeches from kaumātua, Mayor Jenny Brash, and the Minister of Civil Defence & Emergency Management Rick Barker. I really wish I could understand more of the speeches, but that's why I'm learning Te Reo Māori.

Anyway, Kia Takatū will shortly be available to a school near you, and we'll also be getting a copy for the library.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Will it never end?

Our colleagues over the hill in the Wairarapa have also had a busy couple of days, with widespread flooding swamping paddocks and roads throughout the area.

The Waihenga Bridge over the Ruamahanga River on State Highway 53 at Martinborough is closed, and Pukio West Rd Kahutara and Pahautea roads are also impassable.

Heavy rain over the past 36 hours has put pressure on the town's sewerage system and a couple of families were put in motels last night as sewage threatened to contaminate their homes. Eight other homes in the Masterton area have been supplied with portable toilets until conditions improve.

And down in North Canterbury the clean-up begins - again...

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

More news is just full of emergency management news today! - Major quake likely to be confined to one island - NIWA scientists have found there are no major fault lines connecting the North and South Islands meaning the devastating effects of a major quake could be confined to just one island. - Kaikoura, Seddon, Blenheim and Picton are taking a pounding from a rain front that has cut roads and railway lines and caused widespread surface flooding along the east coast of the South Island. The tiny township of Peketa, south of Kaikoura, is being evacuated after flooding threatened the settlement, as the Kahutara River burst its banks - and the cost of these storms just keeps on climbing.

Insurance is a Good Idea!

Here's some images from the last lot of flooding North Canterbury got, at the end of July.
There's a rather nice pub in Amberley - great food. I do hope it survived without harm.

But wait, there's more!

If bad weather and earthquakes weren't enough, there's an oil spill along State Highway 2 in Lower Hutt causing traffic hold-ups.

I feel the earth move under my feet

Actually, I was fast asleep when an earthquake measuring 5.9 struck Hastings at 11.25pm last night, so I didn't feel a thing. The quake was centred 10km southwest of Hastings at a depth of 30km, and caused items to fall off shelves, and furniture to move around. People have felt it as far away as Feilding.

Hastings Civil Defence took the precaution of activating its emergency plan, but the area got off lightly with few reports of damage. The National Crisis Management Centre hadn't been activated, however, the response team was monitoring the situation.

Police in Hastings and Napier said they had not heard of any significant damage as a result of the quake, but there were reports of brief power outages in some suburbs.

There was an aftershock measuring 3.5 ten minutes later as well.

Stuff article -
GeoNet quake report -

Monday, August 25, 2008

Soggy Cantabrians

For once it isn't us getting stuck with the bad weather. Hopefully our colleagues down south aren't being kept too busy with the flooding and slips caused by recent rain.


Several volcanoes have erupted in the past few months - two in Chile (Chaiten and Llaima) and one in Alaska (Okmok). At any given time, approximately 20 to 50 volcanoes are active worldwide (depending on the definition of "active"). Collected here are photos of volcanic events from the the past several years, seen from many angles, including low Earth Orbit.

New Zealand's volcanoes aren't doing much exciting at the moment, but you can always have a look at the volcano cams at GeoNet
See if you can find Dino!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Another little quake

Looks like we had another little earthquake last night. Did any of you feel it? Don't forget to fill in a GNS felt earthquake report if you did.

The GNS report:

Universal Time: 19 August 2008 at 08:58
NZ Standard Time: Tuesday, 19 August 2008 at 8:58 pm
Latitude, Longitude: 41.02°S, 174.87°E
Location: 10 km north of Porirua
Focal depth: 5 km
Richter magnitude: 2.9
Web page:
Felt in Pukerua Bay and Porirua.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Crash! Boom! Hey, who turned out the lights?

And the wild weather continues....

EDIT: and another article from Saturday -

I love thunderstorms, especially forked lighting. I tend to throw open the curtains and find a comfy place to sit, so I can watch the light show. I wish I could say the same for my cat, he was terrified, and spent the night hiding under the duvet. Someone recently posted a link to some really amazing slow motion film of a lightning bolt: Spectacular!

But thunderstorms can be pretty dangerous. The weather systems that produce them are very turbulent, and can produce strong winds, bursts of extremely heavy rain, and hail, just like last night and this morning. Thunderstorms can also produce tornadoes. Lightning strikes can cause all sorts of problems, especially when they hit things like power substations or power lines.

If you're outside when a thunderstorm rolls in, go inside! You can stay in your car if that's your only option, just don't touch any of the metal bits. If you can't find shelter, stay away from tall, isolated objects such as trees, poles, or posts. Make sure that you are not the tallest object by crouching down. Crouch down, bend forward, and grab your ankles. Keep your head down. Don't lie flat on the ground and try to keep out of puddles or other standing water.

Don't use a phone or a computer during a thunderstorm - it's best to turn them off and unplug them, even if you have surge protection. Don't take a shower or wash dishes. Lightning can strike the plumbing or electrical wires that connect to your house and give you an electrical shock if you use these items.

After the storm passes, wait about half an hour before leaving the house. Lightning can still be prevalent in the sky, and more storms may come.

If there are downed power lines anywhere around you, DO NOT touch them. Stay well away and call your electrical company and have them take care of it.

A power line came down in Dimock St, Titahi Bay, and chunks of Porirua lost power, and radio reception too when one of the transmitters was hit.

You all know where your torch and spare batteries are, right?

Stay safe out there.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

2nd Australasian Natural Hazards Management Conference 2008

July 29 and 30 was spent at the 2nd Australasian Natural Hazards Management Conference. You'd think that with "Australasian" in the title it would be held somewhere warmer, where people wear thongs, not jandals, and sound like the cast of Neighbours. But not this time. This year's conference was held in Wellington, so instead of catching a flight to sunny Australia, I caught the train into town and walked to Te Papa in the rain.

There were some quite interesting subjects presented by people from Australia, the US, and other parts of the world. There were a few which stood out for me.

Planning how to rebuild after a major distaster - building back better - not necessarily replacing things as they were - some things were essentially poorly placed to begin with - taking some social responsibility as to what replaces things. Hurricane Katrina examples of areas of significant cultural heritage being replaced with casinos on the beach front - not good. Hopefully we can do better.

Legal issues around natural hazard information - This one was quite relevant for us - especially with regard to the new tsunami information that is becoming available. Once we know that a property is in a potential hazard area we have a responsibility to let the owners know - even if that means that property values drop. The thing is, the hazard risk has pretty much always been there, we're just letting people know of the risks that they may face, so that they can be better prepared. We'd get into more trouble if we didn't tell you.

Community resilience through co-operation - Disasters often span district boundaries. We were given examples from Australia of how municipal authorities were finally joining together to deal with events in a cooperative way, sharing resources, rather than duplicating efforts. Fortunately, in New Zealand, we've been doing this for quite some time, and even have it built into our legislation. It's nice to be ahead of the curve for a change! Go us.

The Mayor of Gisborne gave us a run down on on the quake in December 2007.

There was also a presentation on the Northland floods of 2007, which could very well have been retitled the Northland floods of 2008, and run in real time. The weather was quite attrocious that day. The Metservice had their rain radars on display constantly in the display area, so we had a constant update on how the storm was progressing whenever we had a break. Some of the EMOs were having to rejig flights so they could get back to their districts to deal with it all.

A well-spent two days.

Friday, August 8, 2008

I leave you alone for a few days, and look what happens!

That's just typical... I go on holiday and Porirua gets hit by flooding and slips, and actually activates the incident room. I missed all the excitement!

The 31st of July was a pretty bad day weatherwise for much of the country. Porirua was the unlucky recipient of a very intense, and very localised band of heavy rain that coincided with the peak high tide. This managed to create a little mayhem from Titahi Bay, Mana, across to Papakowhai and Paremata with flooding (waist deep in places!), slips, and overflowing and backed-up sewerage pipes. Ew...

Our call centre had to bring in extra staff from other departments in order to deal with the influx of calls in such a short time - they estimate that we got about 250 calls. Our operations team were very busy, but coped admirably with all the call-outs, even the stinky ones.

What you can do if your property has been flooded (possible sewage contamination)
courtesy of Jim Sutton, Manager Environmental Standards

The main concerns with any sewage-contaminated surface water is that it can carry micro-organisms which can cause sickness. Therefore, where possible, people should avoid areas where contamination has occurred. So don't let children play in surface water. People should ensure that they wash their hands thoroughly before preparing, or eating food. If you have to walk through contaminated areas, take off footwear before going inside. Items that have been contaminated need to be washed thoroughly in clean water and disinfectant.

Once things start to dry off, contaminated driveways and other hard surfaces can be hosed clean. Contaminated items can also be wiped down with a disinfectant. Lawns and under-basement areas can have burnt lime (quick lime, Calcium Oxide ) applied - this acts as effective disinfectant. Care should be taken when applying burnt lime as it is caustic to the eyes and skin.