1945 Flood  -  Swirling waters Temuka district  

The Orari River over spilled southwards at several points. The floods affected Geraldine and Temuka and the northern half of the Levels Plain.
Estimated damage in the county £21,000. The rain commenced on 20th February in torrents sweeping away bridges and flooding Temuka.

Evening Post, 22 February 1945, Page 8 SOUTH CANTERBURY FLOODS
Timaru, February 21. With all rivers running feet above the previous highest levels, and some already having broken their banks to send water swirling over the countryside, South Canterbury is experiencing the worst flood in memory. The season has been disastrous enough, but exceptionally heavy rain in the last 24 hours has produced damage which is likely to amount to thousands of pounds. Throughout today hundreds of people were evacuated from their homes in the Saltwater Creek area, Timaru, where the water on the airport reached a depth of 11 feet, and was still rising tonight. Many homes had to be evacuated in Waimate, Temuka, and Geraldine.
    In Temuka-the water was two feet deep in the shops. The previous highest level in Temuka was back in 1902, and then was not as serious as now. In the Totara Valley area 1000 sheep were washed away from one farm alone and stock losses on other farms are likely to be heavy. There were a number of rumours tonight concerning the loss of life, but none was confirmed. It is known that a number of persons are marooned on the Opihi River reserve, where the water rose 10 feet. At Pleasant Point a bus containing 12 passengers is marooned on a bridge, and they will have to stay there, till daylight. Further south an Army truck with an unknown number of passengers is also marooned. The rainfall in one area was 14 inches in 36 hours, while in Timaru six inches fell in 24 hours.

Martin's Milk Bar, Elite Theatre, Cornwell's, Temuka.

This is a view taken from in front of the police station looking towards town. This was taken early too.

Evening Post, 23 February 1945, Page 4
The South Island Main Trunk railway will not be fully open for days. South of Christchurch there is damage of varying extent at intervals all the way from the Selwyn River to Glenavy, 38 miles south of Timaru. The worst break in Canterbury is at the Temuka bridge, where there is a gap of 140 feet to be bridged There may be an equally bad gap in the line at Pareora, but the water has been too high for a proper assessment to be made.

A view of the main street taken early in the day. Miller's Ltd across the street.

This is the P.O. taken at 1 p.m too. The water looks rough doesn't it. I guess it would be a good deal rougher by 5 p.m. when it was at its peak.
The writing on the back is in the handwriting of the late Jean Smith (wife of Gil Smith). Photos courtesy of Stan Smith, posted Jan. 2012.  compare (opens in another window)

This is the monument in front of the post office.
Rolleston memorial (opens in another window)

The Crown Hotel. This was taken at 1 p.m. & the flood, didn't reach its peak till 5 p.m.
Compare the window sill and vent. (opens in another window)

Temuka has suffered from floods throughout its history.

Evening Post, 24 February 1945, Page 9
A representative of the Department of Agriculture, and probably the Minister (Mr. Roberts), a representative of the Treasury and the Commissioner of Supply (Mr. F. R. Picot) will fly to Christchurch tomorrow to make an inspection of the flood damage in Canterbury, stated the Minister of Works (Mr. Semple) this evening after he had had a telephone conversation with the Prime Minister (Mr. Fraser). Something has got to be done to help these people," said Mr. Semple after he had described the damage he had seen and the cheerful spirit of the people. "These representatives of the Government are arriving, and the question of assistance to farmers and people whose homes have been wrecked will be considered forthwith on the spot." Mr. Semple said that at Temuka he bad seen a sad and sorry spectacle. There had been six feet of water through some houses, and he had seen lathers, mothers, and children scraping silt off the walls. The people, however, seemed quite cheerful and he had met no moaners. A catastrophe had overtaken them, but they had met it like Britishers and had done their best to help themselves. Only the sealing of the highways had prevented an unparalleled highway disaster. Had the highway not been sealed there would have been no highway left, said Mr. Semple. In one or two places near Temuka, where the highway was not sealed, there were washouts nearly six feet deep. That was a picture of what would have happened if the highway had not been paved.

More detailed reports of the damage done by the flood in Canterbury were received today, particularly of damage an the Waimate-Temuka-Mackenzie area. The big washout on the railway line at Temuka is not likely to be repaired before Thursday at the earliest. The Public Works Department and the Railway Department have joined forces in tackling it and men are working round the clock under floodlights. The Minister of Works (Mr. Semple) conferred with departmental officers and others at Christchurch this morning and then visited Temuka. He will go to the Geraldine and Temuka districts tomorrow, and on Monday will leave for the south visiting Timaru on his way. If we get the Temuka railway bridge approach ready for traffic by Thursday it will be a miracle," said Mr. Semple when he returned to Christchurch this evening, "but we will make every effort to do it. Even when the trains do go through they will have to crawl at that point." Mr. Semple saw the coastal section, and Mr T- G. Beck, Assistant Chief Engineer, flew over the inland areas to make a survey of the damage that had been done there. Soldiers are working with the Railway Department and the Department of Public Works in many localities to repair the damage.

Evening Post, 28 February 1945, Page 4
Timaru, February 27. Repairs to the last link in the 107 miles of main trunk railway between Selwyn and Morven damaged by the floods last week were completed this morning, when a breakdown crane tested the line over the filled-in washout at Temuka bridge. The express from Christchurch crossed the bridge safely and reached Timaru at 1 p.m. There were two major wash-outs, 37 smaller wash-outs, two major bridge and a large number of minor bridge repairs, and the reballasting of some miles of permanent way to be contended with. The task of synchronising the completion of the repairs over the 107 miles of line called for considerable organisation and careful timing. More than 300 men from the Railways Department, the Army, and the Public Works Department were placed on the job, and they worked day and night. The gap at Temuka was 140 feet wide and 25 feet deep and 800 cubic yards of shingle were pushed into the gap in 21 days. While the work of the big machines was spectacular, men with shovels played their part in opening the line in what must be a record achievement for the Department.

Evening Post, 27 February 1945, Page 6
Good progress is being made to repair the huge gap in the railway at Temuka, and the line should be open in a day or two. Meantime, convoys of army lorries are carrying passengers from Rangitata to Timaru, where they entrain for the south. The convoys then return with travellers going north. The pipeline supplying Timaru with water has been badly damaged, and the Public Works Department is installing two pumps in an effort to alleviate the shortage.   

The Temuka Flood Memorial - 1945 -21st February

It is in a wall on Domain Avenue (covered in paint). The plaque would be about 4 feet or 1.3 metres above ground.
Flood level  - 60.68ft. M.S.L. on 21st February 1945

Temuka's average rainfall in February is 53mm or 2 inches.

Timaru Herald, 15 September 1873, Page 3
8th Sept., 1873. Sir, It is the constant remark of people, especially of men draying goods between Temuka and Timaru, that this bridge will when finished be carried away by the first heavy fresh, as it appears to the eye to be from six to eight feet below the level of flood line, which flood mark is clearly indicated on a brick building between the bridge and Temuka, and known as Collins meat shop. I am &c. C.G. Tripp, Orari Gorge Station.

Timaru Herald, 12 February 1868, Page 2
THE FLOOD AT TEMUKA. At Temuka the damage done is very considerable. The water came across the intervening lands into an old gully near Mr Whitehead's, whose house, standing some what high, escaped, but he will be a considerable loser by the damage done in his brickyard, where his implements were carried away and his stock of bricks completely spoiled. Mr J. Dean's house is partially destroyed, and he, with his family was compelled to spend the night on the roof of an outbuilding. At Mr Rayner's, the damage is considerable to both the house and the stock of drugs and chemicals within. Mr Rayner was alarmed by the sound of water, and on opening his door, was met by a stream rushing into the house. Without delay he removed his family, and with Borne difficulty they made their way to the Crown Hotel where they have since remained. The next house to Mr Rayner's is occupied by Mr J. Martin, storekeeper, who, with his family, was also obliged to seek safety m flight. The house is standing, but with broken windows, and a great deal of property within destroyed. At the Temuka Brewery, the work of destruction is complete. The buildings were of cob, and none of them are left standing and I am informed by one of the employees that there is not a single article saved.

Orari-Waihi-Temuka-Opihi-river-floodplain report PDF 1997- pg12 history

This page may be freely linked to but not duplicated in any fashion. Posted 22 Jan. 2012

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