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New Middlemarch Rain Gauge Boosts Flood Forecasting Capabilities

More than a ton of gear was transported by helicopter halfway up the Rock and Pillar Range behind Middlemarch last week.

At around 700m in altitude on Glencreag Station, ORC’s Environmental Monitoring team spent the day installing a solar powered rain gauge, which will assist with any future flood responses around Middlemarch township.

The various components were airlifted by helicopter as the track to the site is not suitable for a 4WD towing so much equipment. It was a successful 13.5 hour day, with the flood warning rainfall station completed and operational by dusk.

ORC’s Manager Natural Hazards Jean-Luc Payan says, “The main reason for installing this site is to assist the flood response to Middlemarch. The site will help us better understand the rainfall affecting catchments located in the Rock and Pillar ranges and those that flow into parts of Middlemarch.”

The gauge is linked to ORC’s environmental data portal and while it will read at zero to begin with, at the first rainfall in the area, people will be able to see exactly how much rain is falling.

The gauge measures rainfall in real time as well as total precipitation, including snow melt, over time. The solar panel heats the enclosure, operates venting and keeps the rain gauge at a set temperature. The equipment is monitored remotely; however, the team will make monthly inspections to make sure everything is working correctly.

Photo: Brad Thomas (Environmental technician) installing cabling

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Dr Payan says this is a unique system, built for Middlemarch at the request of ORC’s Hazards team after public consultation. It will provide better flood warning for the township, especially during thunderstorm events and improve Otago’s overall state of the environment rainfall info and flood warning.

The March and Dewar creeks flank Middlemarch and if there is a flash event where the area receives heavy rain these small creeks can become inundated.

There have already been multiple floodings of homes and businesses and it is expected there will be more of these such events due to climate change.

In response, ORC is extending the region’s flood warning system which now consists of 44 rain gauges spread across Otago. ORC also utilises a MetService rain radar located at Hindon, another piece of technology that strengthens overall flood forecasting capabilities and helps keep communities safer.

This rain-gauge also becomes part of ORCs ‘state of the Environment’ monitoring network where high-quality Environmental data is used for long term trend analysis such as showing changes in Otago’s climate.

Keep up with all the latest rainfall readings and more via our environmental data portal:

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