Downpour shuts down town’s CBD
A mid-morning thunderstorm and flooding over Greymouth yesterday not only broke the drought, but left motorists stranded, pedestrians drenched and the CBD closed due to widespread surface flooding.
Gray District Council closed all access points to the CBD at 11am, after arc waves from cars threatened to flood parked vehicles.
Mayor Tania Gibson said the council activated the emergency plan and decided to close the town, with contractors stopping traffic.
Vehicles push water into cars,” she said.
Most streets reopened around 12:30 p.m.
Regent theater staff began contacting patrons as the water level rose to the bottom of car doors.
As cars drove past in the flood water, water reportedly leaked into some vehicles. Although it came close, the water did not flood any premises.
The downpour left pedestrians stranded in the center of town, unwilling to wade through the water to get to their cars.
Shoppers took shelter in doorways and waited for the rain to stop – but it continued unabated for about an hour.
After a month of almost non-stop sunshine, the drought broke with a huge thunderclap in the middle of the morning.
The severity of the rainfall surprised everyone. The Greymouth rain station temporarily stopped issuing updates from around the time the flood hit, making it unclear how much had fallen. It came back online around 11.30am, with 31mm for the previous hour and 44mm in six hours.
MetService meteorologist John Law said a passing thunderstorm brought the localized downpour with “intense bursts”.
Some heavy showers also fell inland. Mr Law said the slow, warm, moist air mass created a perfect combination.
“There could still be thunderstorms this afternoon – hopefully rainfall in the Gray River. [It will] get a lot wetter at the end of the week.”
Stewart Nimmo, retailer and photographer, said the rain came “out of the blue” and was one of the wettest downpours he had ever seen.
At Alf Harrison Menswear, John Gilshnan said it was “a terrible downpour”.
“We don’t deal with it that much on this side [of the road].”
New Zealand Fire and Emergency stopped traffic entering the town at around 11.30am.
A few rains fell in the arid Gray Valley. Ngahere received 32mm in the 24 hours to 11.30am, and Mawheraiti 16mm. Haupiri fared less well with just 5.4 mm. Hokitika had 25.6 mm.
By: Laura Mills