New home for storm survivor

MATT BOWEN
Last updated 13:35 30/06/2014
shirley
NICK REED/Fairfax NZ
SHAMBLES: Shirley McLean, 80, with what remained of her Simpsons Beach home, near Whitianga after it was hit by a storm.

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Kiwi battler and displaced storm survivor Shirley McLean, 80, is heading home.

Nearly a month ago the grandmother's cosy beachfront home was torn to pieces in a storm that she described as worse than Cyclone Bola.

Since then she's been living in a family friend's three-bedroom holiday house in Whitianga that's "freezing compared to my little house".

Now, there's a portable home set to arrive on Wednesday.

"I'm dying to get back there," she said.

"I don't know what it's going to be like, but we'll see."

She's due to stay in the temporary accommodation for six months as her sons figure out details of a potential rebuild.

Most of McLean's little house is no more.

Only the bathroom and garage remain.

Her new abode will rest on the concrete slab where she spent many a warm evening snuggled up to her cats, Bill and Ben, looking out across Simpsons Beach and Mercury Bay.

"Thank goodness I'll have some of my old house," McLean said.

The building received the brunt of the fierce winds that struck the Coromandel and Auckland on the night of June 10.

Road signs were snapped and highways flooded across the peninsula, causing significant damage.

Streams changed course and a massive near century-old pine tree was ripped out of the ground on the Whitianga beachfront.

Some residents are still dealing with the aftermath and they're calling it a once-in-a-century storm.

McLean's cottage felt its full force.

She managed to escape the carnage after the ranchslider caved in, propelling glass shards into her lounge.

When she saw what remained after daybreak, her heart broke.

The roof had blown clean off and was pinned against a pohutukawa tree.

Her home was full of memories, she said at the time.

Shirley's sister, Joan Neal, 82, said the portable home came equipped with kitchen, bathroom and lounge.

McLean had no insurance, but her family had been helping her through. Everyone would help McLean move back in, Neal said.

There's also some social welfare assistance to cover the rent.

Both sisters live on family land at the southern end of Simpsons Beach.

Neal had watched the storm drama unfold.

"I was shocked," she said. "I couldn't believe it - she was very lucky."

McLean, who gets breathless at times after having had one lung removed, said she was coping well.

"There's no good crying about it - you've just got to keep battling on."

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- Waikato Times

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