Friday, July 24, 2009

Bit of a soggy evening

So it rained yesterday... a lot.

I got out of a climate change workshop at Wellington City Council around 4pm, and it was pissing down. Drove back to Porirua with the windscreen wipers going full speed. Was planning to give a talk to PORSE later in the evening, so figured I'd stop by home to get my wet weather gear before continuing back to the office to prepare. While I was home I noticed that the Porirua Stream was getting close to it's 2-year flood levels. It had definitely been raining a lot.

We've been trying to establish what the stream guage level is on the Horokiri Stream when it floods Greys Road, so I figured it was prime time to see if the road was flooded yet, and I had time before my meeting.

First clue that things were worse than I thought was when the surface flooding was almost completely across both lanes outside McDonalds on Kenepuru Drive. Hit the motorway out to Paremata, and around Paremata Road there was quite a bit of surface flooding. Rang that in to the call centre. Carried on through to Pauatahanui, and discovered water pouring across the road in the village. Never seen that before! Did a quick recon of Greys road, and rang through requesting that the signs be put up for flooding, or close the road entirely - too many people end up in the ditch after missing the edge of the submerged road. Then out to Flightys Road, the bridge hadn't gone under yet, but I was asked what time high tide was. Good question. Unfortunately, low tide had just passed around 4 pm, so the tide was rising in addition to the rain falling. Joy...

Back to Pauatahanui, and started door knocking to make sure people weren't having too many problems. People had moved livestock to higher ground, one person had to relocate their rabbits, a restaurant had a pump running to keep the water out, others had streams pouring down their paths, knee deep water to the front door, septic tanks overflowing, water getting into garages and sheds. Some complete moron with a trailer overtook a sensible driver who had slowed down to make their way through the surface flooding...

By the time I made it to the other end of Pauatahanui Village, State Highway 58 was closed as the roundabout was underwater, and there were slips up towards the top of Haywards Hill and down the Hutt side. State Highway 1 was also closed at Pukerua Bay due to a slip, so I headed out there to see what was going on. Couldn't get past Mana due to the traffic, so I spent some time talking to people at the traffic lights, explaining what the problem was. With Paekakariki Hill Road also closed, the only way out of the Porirua Basin was to head south towards Wellington.

After that it was back out to Flightys road where the bridge was now completely underwater, and then along State Highway 58 to see where it was blocked - basically all the gravel from the roadworks where they had been widening the road had been scoured out and dumped across the road. They had just about finished clearing that section when I left.

Thankfully the rain had stopped falling around 7ish, but because of the incoming tide it was some time before the waters started to recede. The SH58 roundabout had cleared by the time I got back from Haywards, and things were beginning to look normal when I headed back to the office at about 9.30.

The EOC had been busy with people who had come in to help, and those who couldn't make it home due to closed roads. Our call centre had been up & running, and our roading & drainage crews had been busy busy - saw some of them standing in thigh deep water watching a foot-wide vortex above a drain they'd just unblocked. We eventually called quits about 10pm. A rather long day for everyone, I expect.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

National Advisory - Tsunami: Potential threat to NZ

Don't panic, it's been cancelled...

Woohoo, something that isn't the bloody flu!

At 10:21 pm last night my phone beeped at me to say I had a text, and being part of the generation who are addicted to their mobile phones, I pounced on it to see who had sent me a late night message. My number must very similar to the number belonging to some other young lady by the name of Emma, as I occassionally get random texts along the lines of "hey em. wot u werin". To my surprise, it wasn't a wrong number booty call, but the National Warning System. I could tell by the use of complete words and punctuation. "National Advisory - Tsunami: Potential threat to NZ No:01. Refer to fax or email." So refer I did, as fast as I could.

Somehow I'd missed the texts in my inbox from GeoNet telling me there had been a 6.6 and a 6.1 earthquake near Tuatapere (wherever the hell that was...). I didn't feel the quake at all, I think I was vacuuming at the time (which would probably be the reason I didn't hear my phone beep, come to think about it.), so Tuatapere obviously isn't anywhere near here. Turns out it's down Fiordland way. gets the advisories at the same time that we do, and by 10:25 there was a story about it. The reported size of the quake has varied a bit - GNS first reported it at 6.6, then revised it to 7.8. US Geological Service had it at 7.8 and has revised it back down to 7.6. The Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre initially had it at 8.2. I'm going to go with 7.8.

There was a bit of down time while we waited for the sea level gauges to tell us if any tsunami had actually been generated, but once the gauge at Jacksons Bay told us that a wave just 17cm high had been generated, the Minstry cancelled the potential threat advisory. A point to note, if you feel an earthquake that makes it hard for you to stand up, and you live by the sea or are on the beach, head for higher ground ASAP - we won't have time to tell you to evacuate.

The cancellation came through at 11.12pm. Evacuation warnings were being screened on Australian TV after that time... Apparently theatregoers at a performance at the beachside Bondi Pavillion in Sydney were evacuated. By the time I went to bed, none of the NZ news websites had actually published that the advisory had been cancelled - which is somewhat frustrating. Telling people they can stop panicking (if they did) is just as important as letting people know there might be a problem!

The faultline down there is still going ping quite enthusiastically with aftershocks. Check out the seismographs and recent quake information at And here's a article about it -