Friday, April 30, 2010

Heavy rain warning for the Tararuas

Metservice has issued a Severe Weather Warning for the Tararua Ranges - so take some serious care if you were planning on going tramping!

A front lying over Nelson this morning is supporting a narrow band of heavy rain
with thunderstorms, and is preceded by a strong northwesterly flow. This feature
is expected to cross Cook Strait this afternoon and lie to the north of the Tararua Range this evening. Rain is already falling in the Tararuas, and this is expected to become heavy and possibly thundery for a time this afternoon with 80 to 100mm possible in places.

Members of the public in and around rivers and streams are warned that levels could rise rapidly.

And meanwhile, down in Queenstown, shorefront shop owners are holding their breath, waiting to see just how far Lake Wakitipu is going to rise. Many have already evacuated their shops (which are apparently effectively uninsurable against floods, after 1999) and have sandbagged the doors.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Wind on the way

MetService has issued a Severe Weather Watch for strong northwest winds in the Wellington & Wairarapa area for this evening through to tomorrow afternoon, as well as some heavy rain for the Tararuas.

Hopefully this lot of weather doesn't end up like the weather bomb that hit us on Tuesday evening.

There were cars aquaplaning on the highway, I ended up travelling at 30kmh to a threatened flooding incident in Pukerua Bay because I couldn't see well enough to go any faster, even with the windscreen wipers going full-tilt.

Grays Road flooded, there was surface flooding by Airlie Road, and all over town, and our after-hours call centre fielded quite a few calls from residents with weather-related problems.

Our rain gauge at the Titahi Bay wastewater treatment plant recorded 31.5mm of rain for the 24 hours to 1pm Wednesday, and I'm pretty sure most of that fell before 9.30pm on Tuesday night.

Hm... I wonder if I could persuade weather ambassador Bob McDavitt to write a guest post for us about the differences between weather warnings & watches, and the thresholds for issuing them.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Grays Road closed - now open again

Grays Road is currently closed due to flooding - and a car off the road. Take care out there!

EDIT - 22:20: Road is now open again, though there is one chunk of surface ponding west of Motukaraka Point that requires extra care, though that should be well signposted.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Pukerua Bay Iroquois crash

Some emergencies are harder to deal with than others. We had been pretty lucky recently that all our major incidents haven't involved losing people, but I guess they can't all be happy ever after stories, however hard we wish.

Our sincere condolences to the families who lost someone on the day we remember those soldiers who never came home.

The Emergency Management Office helped organise for the welfare of the workers on the ground, and assisting with 4WD transport to the crash site - if you've seen our vehicle around town you might be able to spot it amongst the other emergency vehicles in the pictures.

Soggy Southland

Southland doesn't seem to be having much fun today with torrential downpours causing havoc - swelling rivers to breaking point, cutting off phonelines, closing roads, washing away bridges, stranding trampers. They've activated their Emergency Operations Centre, and will likely be working through the night.

You can keep up-to-date on Southland Emergency Management Group's activities by checking out - They must have been in really quick to get that domain name! The rest of us get stuck with some awful mouthfuls as web addresses...

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Who turned out the lights?

Much of Wellington is without power at the moment, with traffic lights out, trolley buses, stopped, and office workers stuck in lifts all over the show. Wellington hospital is currently running on backup power, though they appear to be having problems with them, and have evacuated their intensive care unit.

The outage was caused by a fault at the Wilton substation around 3.20pm, and may continue until after 5pm, though the backlog of disrupted traffic will probably take longer to clear.

The power surged here in Porirua at the time of the incident (the lights flickered) but I haven't seen any outages here.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Severe weather watch for Tuesday

Metservice has issued a Severe Weather Watch for strong winds for us on Tuesday, and some other unpleasant weather around the place.

A vigorous front is expected to move northeast over the South Island and southern North Island tomorrow (Tuesday). Squally thunderstorms associated with the front could bring a brief period of heavy rain and strong winds. Some places may also experience heavy rain or strong winds over a more widespread area and not necessarily associated with the thunderstorms.

Gale north or northwest winds are also likely to affect [...] Wellington hills from Tuesday evening until early Wednesday morning. Gusts could reach 100 km/h or
more,especially about Wellington (including the Rimutaka Hill road). Although these winds are just below warning strength, they may cause damage to poorly secured structures and cause problems for drivers.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Drought caused by bumblebee

One of the things I do is keep an eye on the fire weather data - a series of very useful statistics for predicting the behaviour of wildfires - based on things like recent rainfall, humidity, wind speed, how dry the grass is, how dry the earth is, etc. I was noting with some concern that our weather station at Titahi Bay wasn't receiving much rainfall at all, and the drought code was rising fast - recording similar levels to Northland, which is officially in drought. And then at the end of March the number dropped overnight back to a level more consistent with the rest of the region, and we hadn't had enough rain to cause that kind of drop, so I asked about it.

Turns out a dead bumblebee had gotten stuck in the gauge, so it wasn't working properly. So, bumblebee removed, drought averted!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

That darned thing again...?

That darn Doug Copp "Triangle of Life" email appears to be doing the rounds again. Someone asked me about it at Creekfest.

It's not right, and if you've forwarded it to all your friends, you might like to forward them the link to this.

The following information has been produced by MCDEM in response.

Drop, cover and hold still the best advice.

When the shaking starts, the best advice is still to Drop, Cover and Hold.

The advice from civil defence and The NZ Society for Earthquake Engineering comes in response to a widely circulated email by a self-professed rescue expert.

Information in the email contradicts current advice on what to do in an earthquake. Although the email source has been discredited in the US, where it originated, the emails have been virulent enough to create some public concern both in the US and in New Zealand.

Standard advice in New Zealand for what to do in an earthquake is to drop, take cover under a sturdy piece of furniture, and hold on, or shelter against an interior wall away from windows, bookcases etc. That advice still holds true and has not changed says John Hamilton, the Director of Civil Defence Emergency Management.

“This practice will protect people in most earthquake scenarios. This is the drill
practiced by schoolchildren, and what civil defence agencies have consistently
promoted around the country.

“In a severe earthquake it is absolutely vital that people respond immediately. Confusion about what to do can result in people getting seriously injured or killed.”

“Our advice is to identify safe places in your home, office or school before an earthquake so that when the shaking starts you can respond quickly."

“An immediate response to move to the safe place can save lives. And that safe place should be within a few steps or two metres to avoid injury from flying debris,” says Mr Hamilton.

Graeme Beattie, who is president of the NZ Society for Earthquake Engineering and is a structural engineer at the Building Research Association of NZ, says that each year about 70 damaging earthquakes occur throughout the world.

New Zealand experiences hundreds of earthquakes every year but most of these are either very deep in the earth’s crust or centred well offshore, and cause little damage or injury. But over 100 quakes a year are big enough to be felt, and a severe one can occur at any time.

“The 1931 magnitude 7.8 Hawke’s Bay earthquake caused significant damage and resulted in the introduction of the first New Zealand earthquake-resistant design standards.”

“In New Zealand we are fortunate to have sound building codes and earthquake resilient structures and can have some level of confidence in our buildings.

“But we know from recent international tragedies such as the ones in Kobe, Japan in 1995 and in Taiwan in 1998, that the best building codes in the world do nothing for
buildings built before modern codes were enacted. Fixing problems in older buildings – retrofitting - is in most cases the responsibility of the building’s owner. However, small improvements can make big differences.”

“Ground vibrations during an earthquake are seldom the direct cause of death or injury. Most earthquake related injuries and deaths result from collapsing walls, flying glass, and falling objects caused by the ground shaking,” says Mr Beattie.

Know what to do – before you have to do it!

1. Before an earthquake
• Identify safe places very close to you at home, school or workplace, such as under a sturdy table, or next to an interior wall.
• Develop a Household Emergency Plan and have emergency survival items so that you can cope on your own for at least three days
• Protect property - secure objects and your homes and keep insurance up to date

2. During an earthquake
• Move no more than a few steps to a safe place, drop, cover, and hold on.
• Do not attempt to run outside
• If outside, move no more than a few steps to a safe place, drop, cover, and hold
• If in a lift, stop at the nearest floor and get out
• If you are driving, pull over to the side of the road. Stay in the vehicle until the shaking stops

3. After an earthquake
• Expect aftershocks and help those around you if you can
• Report injuries or fires to the emergency services (dial 111).
• Put out small fires. Evacuate the building if the fires cannot be controlled.
• Listen to the radio for advice and information.
• If your property is damaged, take notes or photos for the loss adjustor.
• Do not go sightseeing and stay out of damaged buildings

Detailed information on what to do is available at , and also offers information on earthquakes.

If you received the ‘triangle of life’ email and forwarded it on to others please now forward this or advise them to go to for the approved response advice for earthquakes.