Snow isolates homes as clean-up begins


Oamaru and Waitaki are cleaning up after the weather blast which closed roads and schools, swept away bridges and isolated Oamaru during the height of the wintry onslaught.

Waitaki District Council emergency services manager Chris Raine said the weather was improving, but more snow was coming _ predicted to get down to 300m on Thursday.

Macraes was currently the worst hit area, he said, with heavy snowfall isolating families and cutting off power.

Some were able to get out by tractor, but were otherwise stranded.

Macraes Rd was yesterday closed to Hyde, to Middlemarch and to State Highway 85.

Continuing rain has added more water to rivers and smaller streams around Oamaru so care should be taken when driving and walking through flooded areas.

“There are also some slips and underslips so motorists should be careful when driving.”

“If people see a slip with no road cones, please report it because it is likely to be new.”

Some areas of the St Kevin’s College hostel were evacuated on Thursday night after a large tree was uprooted.

The saturated ground relented late Thursday afternoon when the first of a number of trees on Waitaki District Council property adjoining the college library toppled in the stormy winds.

Areas of the hostel were evacuated overnight as a precautionary measure and council staff were on site with principal Paul Olsen and caretaker Allan Grant on Friday morning to assess the damage and make the hillside area safe.

Fallen trees were cleared and a number of trees at risk are now tagged for felling.

The large trees lining the college driveway are also being assessed as a precaution.

The college thanked council staff for responding so quickly in order to ensure the safety of students and staff.

The storm’s aftermath may bring a change to clearer days, but could also be a forerunner to severe frosts and icy conditions, Mr Raine said.

“Because the ground is so wet when frosts occur, there will be significant areas of black ice.”

Rivers in the Waitaki catchment remain high although levels are either steady or receding.

The Otago Regional Council flood adviser said because of snowmelt and further rain forecast for the area, river levels may rise again.

Farmers should keep stock and equipment off flood-prone areas. Some areas in Waitaki have also recorded higher than normal rainfall, including the highest rainfall total of 274mm falling at The Dasher in two days (June 16 and 17) and 170.5mm at Danseys Pass.

South Roads and Whitestone Contracting had been working hard to clear the roads for the public, Mr Raine said.

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