Life for most Roxburgh residents is returning to a semblance of normality after about 40mm of rain fell on the township within a couple of hours on Sunday afternoon, causing landslips, flooding and evacuations, and damaging power, communication, water and sewerage systems.
There were reportedly about 450 lightning strikes as the intense storm washed out creeks, including Reservoir Creek, blocking SH8 in both directions out of town.
Residents were left without water and sewerage systems after rocks and other debris from Reservoir Creek damaged water pipes and the reservoir transformer, leading to the reservoir draining completely.
Huge rocks, gravel and trees blocked the culvert, and caused water to overflow down Roxburgh’s main street, forcing residents in eight Tweed St homes to evacuate, as well as closing the Roxburgh Area School and other businesses.
There were also slips at Black Jacks Creek, opposite the sportsgrounds and just north of the town, blocking SH8 on both sides of Roxburgh.
Power was restored on Tuesday, and yesterday morning a diversion along the back road from the dam to Millers Flat was still in place, although roads were expected to be reopened by this morning.
Emergency services, contractors, council staff and volunteers have spent the week clearing the debris, repairing or restoring infrastructure and removing silt from affected properties.
Central Otago Mayor Tim Cadogan said it was one of the worst floods the township had experienced since 1978.
One resident, who did not wish to be identified, said she heard the thunder and then Reservoir Creek, which is only a few metres from her house, “roaring” and shortly after the water started flowing down the main road.
“It kept coming,” she said.
“My garage was full of water.”
Scotland St resident Michelle McGinley and her family live close to Reservoir Creek and she said they were unable to leave their property as the road had been blocked off.
However, as her husband left his work vehicle parked on the road, they were able to use that to take advantage of the free showers on offer at Ettrick Lodge.
“We had been away in Christchurch and only just got home on Sunday night.
“We managed to get to our property to check it.”
She said other residents were far more badly affected and some had left as they had children.
“It was too hard without running water.
“You forget how much you need it.”
Mr Cadogan said he had been impressed with the offers of help, and the willingness of volunteers from both in the valley and the wider area to “get stuck in” and clean up.
“This is rural New Zealand at its absolute best,” Mr Cadogan said.
“People should be proud of themselves.
“I think we were lucky we didn’t lose anybody as it could have been a lot worse.”
He said contractors had done “an amazing job” in removing vast amounts of rock so the water had somewhere to go if it rained again.
The Otago Regional Council fast-tracked consent applications to allow the debris to be dumped.
Social media had offers of free accommodation, water and showers, while people offered to provide meals, volunteer labour and babysitting services as well as warnings of speeding and careless traffic on the back road.
Stand Children’s Village (formerly the health camp) was offering child-minding services for parents who were providing volunteer labour.
Orchardists reported damage to their early cherry crops and a farm suffered damage during a flash flood.
Minister of Civil Defence Kris Faafoi visited the township on Wednesday afternoon.