After wet weather, recent rain is worsening conditions in New Zealand’s already wet landscape. Experts attribute the unusually wet weather to a narrow stream of water vapor or an “atmospheric river” sitting over land.
Data from weather forecaster Metservice showed the northern part of the South Island had received 300 millimeters (11.8 inches) of rain in the past 24 hours. Heavy rain warnings are in place for the western parts of the South Island and the north of the North Island.
MetService data showed the South Island city of Nelson had received 106 millimeters of rain since Tuesday afternoon – much more than the average of 80 millimeters for the whole of August.
In New Zealand’s North Island, the country’s largest city, Auckland, has a heavy rain and wind warning in place, but so far only minimal disruption has been reported.
Officials said more than 230 homes in Nelson, a city of more than 50,000 people, had already been evacuated and many public facilities and roads were closed.
A statement on the Nelson City Council website warned that continued rain could mean further landslides, flooding and evacuations.
Nelson’s mayor, Rachel Rees, told New Zealand television program AM that although the city had moved through the night without major incident, its infrastructure was under pressure.
“We deal with a lot of sewage flooding,” he said.
On the island’s west coast, people in 160 homes evacuated in the past day may return to their homes to assess the damage, Fuller District Council said in a statement. But it warned that more rain was expected and they might have to leave again.
“I believe that across the county, we came out relatively unscathed,” Fuller Mayor Jamie Klein said at a news conference streamed online.
“Introvert. Communicator. Tv fanatic. Typical coffee advocate. Proud music maven. Infuriatingly humble student.”