West Coast highway to close overnight from Makarora to Franz

by Kim Bowden - Apr 10, 2024

The road between Makarora and Franz Josef up the West Coast will be closed overnight in response to forecasted heavy rain.

The news comes as a shorter section between the coast's two glacier townships re-opens after being closed for much of the day due to a slip.

The New Zealand Transport Agency says State Highway 6 between Makarora and Franz Josef will close from 9pm, with an update on its status expected Thursday at 10am.

“Muddy Creek, north of Makarora on the Otago side of State Highway 6, is catching the heavy rainfall which will cause issues if the banks break,” NZTA's Nicole Felts says.

The transport agency says it only re-opened the highway between Fox and Franz Josef at 3pm today, and it warns of 30-minute delays due to a backlog of traffic and single-lane access and the use of stop-go controls.

It says another slip closer to Haast was cleared at midday.

The forecasted overnight deluge comes off the back of already heavy rain on the coast and in the Otago headwaters.

MetService has issued orange rain warnings for many areas, including Southland, Clutha, and Fiordland, in addition to Westland and the Otago headwaters, until Thursday. 

However, the national weather forecasting agency has reported via its website its Otago radar is currently offline and requires a site visit from technicians.

It may impact on its ability to predict what is coming with a high-degree of accuracy.

"While our teams work to resolve the issue, composite data from nearby radars will be displayed for the 300-kilometre resolution, however accuracy will be reduced for the Otago region," the MetService website says.

Meanwhile south of Hannahs Clearing, near Haast, households could be without power for several days after three power poles came down in the wild weather.

The National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) advises that in times of crisis or civil defence emergency a battery-powered radio or a car radio remain essential lifelines if power is out and other forms of communication are unavailable.

Police have issued a statement advising southern motorists to show caution on the roads in the coming days in light of weather warnings.

"Parts of the South Island are already experiencing extreme weather conditions, with strong wind and heavy rain also expected to hit the top of the South Island, Wellington, Taranaki and Northland from this evening," Superintendent Steve Greally, the director of road policing, says.

"In extreme conditions, please limit yourself to essential travel only, ensure you have had your brakes and windscreen wipers checked. Reducing speed, using headlights and watching your visibility will also ensure a safe trip."

Fire and Emergency New Zealand has also issued a statement saying it has sent 15 specialist crew members to Franz Josef.

"Eight are members of the Specialist Water Response Team and they will be available for any activities involving water, including rescues. The other seven are members of Fire and Emergency’s Urban Search and Rescue team. Their primary task will be rapid damage assessments, but they are also trained and equipped for search and rescue."

FENZ says it has not received any 111 calls from people impacted by the weather today.

Main image (NZTA): A slip closes State Highway 6, Wednesday, April 10, 2024.


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