Roofs ripped off, streets 'trashed'

WELLINGTON REPORTERS
Last updated 15:13 21/06/2013
SEAN WILLIS/Fairfax NZ

Wellington's South Coast has been hit by incoming swells as strong winds lash the capital.

Wellington storm
KIRSTY FARRANT Zoom
A falling tree took out a power pole and lines, blocking Warwick St in the Wellington suburb of Wilton.

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DAYS BAY BACHES WRECKED

Four seaside houses in Days Bay - including a bach formerly owned by author Katherine Mansfield - appear to be write-offs after being smashed to pieces by the overnight high tide.

The front of the houses, at the northern tip of the bay, were demolished and are now again at the mercy of the tide, expected to peak at 3.27pm.

John Ross, an owner of one of the homes, said he and his family had had a lucky escape, evacuating at 1am, an hour before the high tide struck early this morning.

"I'd bought another house in the hills of Days Bay and was slowly shifting stuff over before the family moved.

"But I did not like the look and sound of the storm this morning, so we got out at around 1."

Mr Ross, who was sharing the house with his 82 year-old mother, partner and two-year-old son, said the waves had shattered the front window, which he estimated to be about 10mm thick.

"Imagine we'd been inside when that struck. There's just no fighting the force of the sea. It could have been very different and tragic, had we not got out."

Mr Ross said he expected four of the five seaside houses to be write-offs. "The sea wall is broken, the houses shattered, some walls are no longer there ... And now the sea is doing further damage."

Mr Ross returned to the house about 5am, but initially could not get through his gate because of the drift wood and debris littering his roadside garden.

"The new owners are not going to like this," he said. "But what can you do against this force of nature?"

He said all the residents had escaped safely.

The one house to escape relatively lightly is set slightly further back from the sea.

TRAMPOLINE LEFT HANGING IN POWER LINE

Kelburn resident Mark Donnell heard a roof tile shatter on his Raroa Rd home about 7.30pm, but soon realised they had a bigger issue on their hands.

"I heard a tile come off the roof and shatter. I walked around and thought that's not the problem, when I saw the trampoline." 

Mr Donnell said a trampoline was hanging off the power line, suspended, last night and it had since dropped to the ground, though was still tangled in the line.

He was waiting for Wellington Electricity to turn off the power so they could pull the trampoline out.

WOMAN SLEEPS AS TREES CRASH INTO HOUSE

A Waiwhetu woman slept on as two large pine trees crashed into her house, one landing on her bedroom roof.

The elderly woman's daughter, Annemarie Jenness, said neighbours in the Hutt Valley, Wellington suburb tried to wake her mother up after the first 10-metre pine crashed into the roof of her bedroom about 9pm yesterday.

When they couldn't raise her by knocking on the door, they called police.

When police arrived another ''huge'' pine tree crashed down on the house.

''I don't know how she slept through it, I really don't. It would have made a hell of a crash.''

Police finally got in to the house and woke the woman, who was taken to a rear neighbour's house because the driveway was blocked.

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She was still stuck at the neighbour's house this afternoon and was in shock, Mrs Jenness said.

BACKYARD A MESS OF CONCRETE AND SEAWEED

The sea wall protecting Reece Kohatu's Lyall Bay home has collapsed leaving the bottom storey flooded while the family awaits the rising tide above.

The backyard at the Queens Dr property has been reduced to a mess of concrete and seaweed, the balcony and stairs washed away.

"It's surreal - you think you've got a wall and then just like that, nature just takes it away."

Mr Kohatu's partner Toni Roberts and their daughter did not sleep last night, and as the waves rose, the back door downstairs gave out about 11:30pm.

"[The ocean] just opened the door by itself - even though it was deadlocked."

A section of the seawall collapsed completely about 2am, flooding the back yard and by the morning, the water downstairs was 50cm deep.

Ms Roberts said the bottom storey of the house had been reduced to a "soup".

"I was pretty worried when the sea wall went - we've had our bags packed ready to go."

However, the family's battle is not over with the high tide looming again this afternoon.

Mr Kohatu had called the fire service and boarded up the windows and doors downstairs.

"They will have a look at the wall but I'm not sure what else they can do."

Next door, Pippa Lee's backyard was also flooded, with the water creating a 2m hole under the sea wall.

The hole was being filled with stones but with the high tide turning this afternoon, it was unlikely to keep the waves out, she said.

"We've just been slammed ... we just don't want to lose the wall."

FAMILY'S ROOF TORN AWAY IN WIND

The roof of a Stokes Valley family's new home came off "like film off margarine" in last night's storm.

Last night, as the storm hit, Nicholas Down was in his van outside his family's new Stokes Valley home, about to follow his wife Jodyann and their two sons to get dinner, when he heard a huge "ker-chunka" noise from the house.

He then saw the roof come off, "like lifting film off margarine".

"It's open-plan living," Mr Down said.

The couple had bought the house in March, but were living at a friend's place as they worked to renovate it.

They had spent $40,000 on the house so far, and had just completed installing a new roof.

"My family's not hurt and nobody was harmed," Mr Down said.

"The poor buggers in the south are much worse than us."

Mr Down's son Lachlon, 13, said he was just glad the family weren't living at the house at the time, so most of their belongings were not inside.

The interior of the house was wrecked, but Mr Down believed the damage would be covered by insurance.

'IT'S LIKE A BOMB WENT OFF'

Wellington south coast resident Karen Brodie said The Esplanade has been "trashed".

"It's like a bomb's gone off. I've never seen anything like it," she said.

"The road has been completely ripped up."

Debris, including logs, seaweed, sand and a ripped up bench seat were on the road, she said.

She even found a dead fish washed on the road this morning.

The wind last night was "hideous", Ms Brodie said.

"It even moved my car over on an angle."

Wellington's south coast has been battered by the storm, with two metre slabs of asphalt ripped from the ground. 

Parts of The Esplanade in Island Bay are submerged and strewn with debris and a 3.5-metre tree. 

On Owhiro Bay Rd, Daniel Smith is fighting to keep his roof, the corner of which is flapping in the gale. 

"I heard the banging but I thought it was the garage door. When I was taking the kids out I stuck my head out the door and saw it flapping around." 

Mr Smith climbed on to a neighbouring roof and managed to secure his own with a rope tied to a  nearby tree. 

"I called the fire brigade but we are fifth on the list in Owhiro Bay." 

Around the corner, The Bach cafe is open for business, despite the road being near impassable. 

The ground outside is ripped up and flooded and strewn with rocks. 

But customers are slowly trickling in and some are helping clean-up the cafe's balcony. 

Co-owner Maraea Kiel said she had never seen anything like it. 

"It looks like quake destruction but it's not. How wild and furious that sea must have been."

Ms Kiel said she had received "calls galore" from customers checking on the cafe and wanting a coffee. 

Customer Robbie Swaneveld has lived in Island Bay for 50 years and said he has never seen a storm like this. 

"I was six when the Wahine [storm] came through and even that was not like this."  

Local Steve Potter said he was working to clear debris from The Esplanade.

''I've lived here 25 years and it's the worst I've ever seen it.''

TREE NARROWLY MISSES KENNEL

A 20-metre tall macrocarpa tree split and fell around Waglands Kennel in Normandale, narrowly missing the building but crushing two cars.

Waglands owners Ben and Arlene Adams, who live on the kennel premises with their 6-month-old twin boys, say they initially thought it was an earthquake when a huge gust of wind shook the building. They then heard the crash of the 90-year-old tree falling outside.

The tree missed one corner of the house by about five metres, but crushed two cars parked outside the other corner.

"We don't know what the plan is to deal with it, but our neighbour is a tree surgeon, and he's likely to be busy for quite a while," Mr Adams said.

The pair said they felt lucky the damage wasn't more extensive, and they would at least have enough firewood for the several years to come.

Power had been out to the area since 7pm last night.

Waglands' human and canine occupants were all safe and well.

DAMAGE AT THE DOCKS

A yacht parked at the Seaview Marina was blown over and another yacht broke away from its moorings at the Evans Bay Marina.

Seaview Marina administrator Suzanne Willis said a lot of sails and canopies were torn and one boat on a swing mooring had lost a line but it was too rough to get out and secure it.

The biggest storm since the marina was built saw waves nearly crashing over the breakwater that shelters the boats. 
She said most of the people who lived on boats in the marina went ashore for the night. The few who stayed on board their boats would have had a rough night.

Evans Bay Marina supervisor Andy McCallum said a boat which came off its swing mooring ended up on rocks near Greta Point. The police launch went to its rescue but he was uncertain whether they were able to save it.

A lot of boats had torn sails and canopies and some boats parked on trailers had been moved about by the fierce winds.

Piers on Chaffers Marina were damaged and several boats broke their moorings in the fierce winds.

Marina manager Ken Burt said two eight-metre long steel bridges linking the marina walkway to piers C and D broke away, making access to boats on both piers very difficult.

Power was also cut to both piers. He said people living on boats at the marina saved several boats which broke their moorings, by going out and tying them up again.

A headsale on one boat was shredded by the wind after it unfurled and many boat covers were torn and billowing in the wind.

SIGNIFICANT DAMAGE TO SURF CLUBS

Julian Hodge, from the Island Bay Marine Education Centre, said the surf club building used by the centre suffered significant damage.

A roller door was ripped off like a ''piece of aluminium foil'' and debris was 1.5m deep in downstairs section.

Equipment housed in the Island Bay beach building had been washed out.The nearby aquarium was badly damaged but animals were fine, he said.

Both surf clubs in Lyall Bay - Maranui and Lyall Bay - suffered only minor damage.

Worser Bay Life Saving Club chairman Grant Rae said beach-level gear sheds had doors smashed in by waves and logs.

''Some of the doors were rammed [seven to eight metres] to the back of the gear shed.''

Doors were in the same spot during the 1968 storm which sunk the Wahine ferry near the harbour heads. The doors withstood the weather in 1968.

Paddle boards and skis had been washed out of the shed, some flipped by the wind to neighbouring properties.

''We understand there has been some total loss of equipment, with some items damaged beyond repair.''

The club was insured and should be operating by summer.

- The Dominion Post

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