Reflections on the great deluge

By David Thomson on Sat, 29 Jul 2017

WeeksThere are many dozens of slips to be cleared and washouts to be repaired, and quite a few bridges to rebuild or even replace.

Amid a mighty trail of destruction wrought across the eastern part of our province, I was especially saddened to learn of the destruction of the (once) beautiful Sutton suspension bridge. This historic bridge is one that I have had the pleasure of crossing numerous times over the years, when vehicle road-testing duties for Drivesouth have taken me to the Strath Taieri.

My experience of Deluge '17 was an odd one, spent happily ensconced on holiday with the family in the largely unaffected Upper Clutha and Queenstown-Lakes areas.

Friday afternoon was spent driving through steady, but unexceptional, rain from Wanaka to the Wakatipu Basin. The only concession to the weather was avoiding the Crown Range in case of snow, and the most interesting parts of an uneventful day behind the wheel came exploring the latest roading and sub-division developments around Frankton and Jacks Point.

We didn't see a drop of rain as we popped up to Glenorchy on Saturday, and awoke on Sunday morning to blue skies and a decent but quite normal Central Otago frost.

However, as we left for Dunedin late-morning, all three main routes home were still listed as closed: the Pigroot due to snow; Highway 87 due to flooding at Kokonga; and the shortest route via Lawrence due to slips. We opted for the latter, figuring that if the road between Lawrence and Milton hadn't opened by early afternoon, we would simply divert via Balclutha.

Fortunately, the handy NZTA journeys website updated Lawrence to Milton as open around noon, and so we had a direct run home. The so-called flood-free highway between Waihola and Allanton certainly lived up to its name; I've crossed it a few times when there has been a lot of water either side, but the extent and depth of the water last Sunday was greater than I have seen before.

Last weekend's weather provided a timely reminder of why vehicles with four-wheel-drive and decent ground clearance are popular in this part of the world: being behind the wheel of such a vehicle - the latest Mazda CX-5 - was quite a comfort on my trip home from Central. Another such vehicle - the new Toyota C-HR - is this weekend's Drivesouth cover car.

Lastly, I can't sign off this editorial without acknowledging Courtney Duncan's excellent performance in the latest round of the women's world motocross championships in the Czech Republic. A win and a second place at that event have propelled her to the top of the points standing with two rounds to go, which is just brilliant.


David Thomson