Recovery from last week’s floods, which brought chaos to roads, farms and households across South Otago and beyond, could take a considerable amount of time, Clutha Mayor Bryan Cadogan said.
The state of emergency for the Clutha district was lifted on Friday.
“We’ve been lucky in that, had this event been only marginally worse, there would have been huge ramifications,” Mr Cadogan said.
“But there’s been a magnificent community spirit shown by local people, with offers of bedding, emergency accommodation and food.
“It’s been the district at its best.”
The Clutha district demonstrated its community spirit during the floods.
At 7.30pm on February 2, MetService issued a heavy rain warning for the southern and western parts of the South Island, warning of 100-160mm of rain in the Otago headwaters and Clutha for the following 48 hours.
Overnight on Monday, February 3, the downpour started, and did not end for another 36 hours.
By 7am on Tuesday the Clutha District Council advised extensive surface flooding had occurred throughout the district, causing eight roads to be blocked, while West Otago’s Pomahaka River had reached its third flood alert.
By 9am six more roads were closed.
By noon another 16 roads were closed due to flooding and a further 10 were damaged.
Despite the heavy rain in Otago and Southland, a large number of people were starting to move north on the state highways in preparation for the Elton John concert in Dunedin.
Then came the announcement State Highway 90 Gore to Tapanui and State Highway 1 Gore to Clinton were closed.
By 4pm 52 roads in the district were closed and a further 42 had surface water or were damaged because of flooding.
At 5.30pm the council closed the Owaka Highway.
The Clutha River at Balclutha was expected to rise to 2200 cumecs between 6pm and 11pm, before climbing to 2500 cumecs by 4am the following morning.
Welfare centres were opened in Balclutha and Owaka.
At 11pm, Clutha Mayor Bryan Cadogan declared a state of emergency covering the Clutha district, due to widespread flooding.
River flow predictions were later lifted to 2900 cumecs at midnight.
Mercifully, by 6.30am on Wednesday, the rain had stopped.
Residents woke to see very high river levels and extensive flooding around the Balclutha airport, motocross track, and in low-lying areas.
Gore south remained cut off as the Mataura River flooded, blocking all routes south.
Some schools were closed while others had a delayed start.
At 10.15am a Civil Defence alert was issued advising of the risk of flooding from a potential breach of the Hospital Rd retention flood bank in Balclutha.
People in low-lying areas of Balclutha were advised to prepare a grab-bag immediately, in case evacuations were ordered.
By 2pm council and civil defence personnel were going door-to-door in lower Balclutha to inform people of the risk, and advising evacuation.
The welfare centre at the Cross Recreation Centre offered basic accommodation facilities overnight for displaced residents, and for motorists stranded by road closures.
By 7pm pumping was reducing the stresses on the Hospital Rd retention flood bank and stranded motorists settled in at various welfare centres around the region.