Black Friday - 27th January 1984 is the worst flood on written record in the town of Otautau, indeed for all of Southland, although for the town residents things had been made worse by localized rain, when over 125mm of rain fell in 6 days with nearly 100mm on the 27th by itself. Virtually the whole town had to be evacuated to higher ground and a state of Civil emergency was called. The council, who tried desperately to sand-bag and ran out, organized initially for an Iroquois to helicopter in more supplies, but even this attempt was aborted when those in charge could see it was to no avail.
Trucks and tractors were called in to rescue people, with the flood-waters so deep, the truck drivers had no idea where the roads were, so a tractor had to guide the way in front, in case the truck "fell off" the roadway. Residents were sheltered at the Golf Course, the football pavilion at Holt Park, Peter Campbell's woolshed out by Yellow Bluff Bridge and the depot of Western Haulage, while overnight the cemetery also housed a collection people sheltering in caravans and cars. Those sheltering from the floods had to eat what they had bought along, while some were fortunate to have hot tea and supplies on hand. But it was the aftermath of the floods which were the worst, with many eldery both affected and under-insured, but even though the emotional and physical toll was beyond belief, both the Red Cross - who delivered free meals to those affected and the Lions of Riversdale arrived to help, along with many other donations of help from residents and businesses around the district and from further afield, with the local Council and other community organizations appealing for help.
The clean-up from this flood was calculated at the time to be around $300,000 which is a vast amount for any small town, and the worst possible outcome of all, is that in 1987 there was a partial repeat performance, compounded by the fact that repairs had still not been completed since the previous flood. It was not until the late 80's that there was eventually government funding made available for the much needed flood banks, which have protected the town since.
In this photo:
Buildings on left are the BNZ (now the Police Station in 2018), Otautau Machinery (where the original Police Station and residence used to sit) next to the Courthouse (now the Museum), and the Post Office, with the old and new Town Hall's off into the distance. On the right, the front of the newest Otautau Hotel is seen, with the verandah of Jacquieries buildings and Shirley Winders Western Fashion shop signs able to be seen (now Salvation Army Shop).