Sudden cloudburst hits Waihi Beach, causing severe flash floods, New Zealand

Waihi Beach residents seek shelter as flash floods inundate homes, New Zealand

A sudden cloudburst on Monday afternoon, May 29, 2023, led to flash flooding at Waihi Beach in the western Bay of Plenty, New Zealand, resulting in evacuations and significant damage. Approximately 60 mm (2.3 inches) of rain fell during the burst, causing floodwaters to reach waist height at their peak.

Flash flooding at Waihi Beach in the western Bay of Plenty has led to a series of evacuations and significant damage. The flooding was triggered by a cloud burst that occurred just after 14:00 LT on Monday, during which about 60 mm (2.3 inches) of rain fell. In 2 hours, weather stations registered up to 120 mm (4.6 inches) of rain. The floodwaters rose to waist height at their peak, causing considerable damage to the local roading network.

Fire and Emergency shift manager Ryan Geen reported that they responded to 10 callouts related to the flooding and assisted with multiple evacuations during the afternoon. Among those evacuated were three elderly individuals and a family on holiday, who were accommodated at a local camping ground.

Peter Watson, Western Bay of Plenty District Council’s Civil Defence duty manager, stated that residents from 11 units for the elderly were safe and taking shelter at the local RSA. Waihi Beach RSA Manager Mel Gearon confirmed that they had about 20 evacuees in the early evening.

The torrential downpour resulted in the flooding of several pensioner flats, with Gearon estimating that about 15 homes would be uninhabitable for the night. Western Bay of Plenty ward councilor Allan Sole described the situation as rapidly flooding, with holiday baches inundated and some units for older residents evacuated.

Waihi Beach community board chair Ross Goudie reported that water was flowing over stormwater ponds, across a main road in the northern part of the settlement, and into a low-lying area. He noted that the area’s stormwater infrastructure could not keep up with the major flooding.

As the community begins to recover from this event, a severe thunderstorm warning has been issued for much of Waikato, Western Bay of Plenty, and Tauranga. The warning indicates that the storms are expected to bring “very heavy rain” that could cause further surface or flash flooding and make driving conditions dangerous.

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References:

1 Evacuations in Waihi Beach and flooding closes SH29 – RNZ – May 29, 2023

Featured image credit: NOAA-20/VIIRS. Acquired on May 29, 2023

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