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Published: 2004-02-29 00:00:00

Rain is easing off around the flood-battered Waikato, with the MetService downgrading its severe weather warning and fine weather predicted by mid week.

The MetService is predicting light showers over the next couple of days as the low pressure system moves rapidly away to the east. By Tuesday the low should have moved to the South Island and the Waikato will be left with a few showers, with only a few of them heavy and in isolated areas.

By Wednesday, a welcome ridge of high pressure is likely to move onto the country bringing fine weather.

Meanwhile, the Region’s rivers are flowing at their peaks through to the lower Waikato area.
Environment Waikato’s flood response team was activated early this morning as about 35 homes were evacuated around Lake Taupo and the Tongariro River area, with about 90 people sent to a nearby marae. Water is now receding in the Taupo and upper Waikato River area and assessments are being done of the damage. At least one basement was inundated.

Environment Waikato is working closely with Mighty River Power to adjust the flows through the hydro lakes to minimise impacts on the lower Waikato area.

Lake Taupo is full, with very large inflows from its tributaries and the Tongariro River is flowing close to a one-in-100-year flow, but Environment Waikato’s erosion protection works have held up.

In Hamilton City, the river is just below lower lying houses in Ann Street.

Roads closed include State Highway 3 at Te Kuiti, and through the Awakino Gorge, State Highway 31 to Kawhia from Te Awamutu and a number of Waikato District rural roads.

Heavy flows will take several hours to reach Ngaruawahia and Mercer in the Lower Waikato. The Waikato River is expected to peak at Hamilton at 11pm tonight just over 16 metres, at Ngaruawahia and Huntly at 11pm tomorrow night (Monday) at 12.9 metres. It is expected to peak at Rangiriri at 3am on Tuesday at 8.4 metres and at Mercer at 11am on Tuesday at 4.9 metres. This will be regularly monitored.

The Rangiriri spillway – which operated in the 1998 flood to send water over State Highway 1 into Lake Waikare - operates at 8.8 metres.

Environment Waikato is expecting significant rises in water levels in the lower Waikato. Mr Fowlds said the Mercer West area was likely to be inundated and residents in the Morrison Road area have been warned. Morrison Road will be raised by fill material to protect the areas behind it.