Big clean-up ahead for Hutt Valley

SIMON EDWARDS
Last updated 11:00 21/06/2013

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Sharlene Elliott says when she heard the bang and the walls of her bedroom started to move, ''I just flew out of there''.

A large tree fell at 9.10pm during the storm that battered Wellington, caving in half of her Hunter St, Taita, home.

Ms Elliott, who this morning was in her pyjamas and a jacket surveying the damage and dangling live power cables, says her children were terrified.  The 4, 11 and 12-year-olds had gone off to spend the day with family in another part of the Hutt Valley.

''I knew that tree was going to come down some day,'' Ms Elliott said, her sodden cat in her arms.

''It took out the windscreen of my van too.''

Trees have come down all over the city; dozens of schools are closed; power outages mean most of the city's wastewater pumping stations are out of action.

A Dews Construnction work, who said he had been on his feet 19 hours, said the storm surge at the Hutt River mouth last night saw waves lapping the walls of some Port Rd factories.

When Hutt New visited at about 8.30am, the middle section of Port Rd was a lake of brown water and plastic and branch debris on the road were left as tide marks.

Days Bay and Eastbourne ''got a right walloping too'' the worker said.

The city's infrastructure manager, Bruce Sherlock, said it was the wind rather than the rain that took the heaviest toll in Lower Hutt.

While the Hutt River's flood alarms were triggered in the night, ''it didn't come to anything''. Usual inundation troubles spots such as Block Rd and the riverbank carpark were still open this morning.

Trees were down everywhere, including on the Gracefield offramp.  Mr Sherlock was it was fortunate that had been cleared by 9am as there would have been considerable disruption to traffic coming out of Wainuiomata.

''We've got work men everywhere [dealing with such problems],'' he said.

Power outages had affected stormwater pumping, meaning it was difficult to deal with ponds forming in low-lying areas such as Marsden St under Ewen Bridge, and at Seaview roundabout.

There are one or two small slips, the most serious at Wainuiomata Rd.  ''That's about 40 cubic metres [of debris] so it's not too big.''

Mr Sherlock said almost all of the city's wastewater pumping stations did not have power, meaning there would be sewage overflows into waterways such as Waiwhetu Stream.

Over the next few days, parents should discourage their children from splashing through street side puddles.
When large trees fall, their roots can also take out water pipes.  In Owen St, on the Belmont flats, a numberof houses are without water.  They're also without power as lines came down.

''For a time our contractors were not allowed in there because downed lines were live.''While hundreds of Hutt families will have branches and other mess to clear up, Mark Phillips and his family in Trafalgar St has a bigger headache than most.

A very large Himalayan cedar fell last night, taking out a big chunk of the new fence and gate that had only been up a short while, and also cutting the water supply.

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''We knew it was going to go 20 minutes before it happened but there was nothing to do about it, with everyone else in a similar situation,'' Mr Phillips said.

''It was squelching in the ground, rocking back and forward and then it went at about 8pm.
''It ripped up the water toby.  The water was gushing until the guys put in a replacement pipe.''

The fallen tree knocked a wooden power pole onto a lean and an adjacent concrete power pole is also looking a bit dodgy.

- Hutt News

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