Flooding ravages Nelson again

02:51, Jun 26 2014
Kawai St South flooding
TAKE CARE: Cars carefully navigate floodwater on Kawai St South, between Boundary Rd and the hospital.

"There was just nothing, and then there was everything."

This was Alison Myers' description of the surge of water that turned her Nelson street into a raging torrent after a downpour that caused havoc across the city yesterday afternoon.

The power of the floodwaters in Murphy St tore down fences, scoured out driveways, washed away small pets, and in one case washed a car down a driveway and up against the house.

Murphy St
DESTRUCTION: Heavy rain flooded this Murphy St driveway, and appears to have brought down a surrounding fence.

"We've been here 25 years and never seen anything like it," Myers said while sweeping water out of her driveway.

She said it was hard to tell exactly what happened when a sudden noise that was a mix of wind, rain and rushing water arrived.

"It was panic stations at that point."


Kawai St South flooding
SODDEN: Floodwater encroaches on Kawai St South homes this afternoon.

Further up the street, Kane Heal was trying to free his Ford Laser car, which had been washed sideways down his driveway and pushed up against the house. Its rear axle was wedged on top of a mussel buoy that had mysteriously appeared.

"I've no idea where it came from," he said.

Lesley Whitaker said she was visiting a friend who lives at the house, and looked outside to see the guinea pig hutch start floating on the lawn.

Murphy St flooding
WET WEDNESDAY: Residents wade through flood water near Victory Square.

She went to the front door, took one look outside, and slammed the door shut and grabbed the children who were in the house. The house was soon knee-deep in water, she said.

She suspected that the guinea pigs had drowned in the flood, as there was no sign of the hutch.

The Nelson Fire Service helped to evacuate the house, which at one point had water rushing past up to the windowsills.

Station officer Kevin O'Connor said firefighters were able to get the two women and two children out once the water had dropped to knee level, but the current was extremely dangerous at one point.

"Initially, there was no way we could get through it. Any worse and the situation would have been very serious."

He said firefighters were grateful for the help they received from the public during the tricky evacuation of a quadriplegic man from his home in Murphy St to an ambulance, through a "serious amount of running water".

All along Murphy St, people were sweeping driveways, unblocking drains and picking through debris as the water receded, but it continued to gush down Emano St and into Victory Square.

The shopping centre on the upper side of the square near the intersection of Emano and Murphy Sts was worst affected.

Landlord Frank Saxton was standing above the floodwaters on a traffic roundabout, watching the water seep into shops including the laundromat, the Wrap Shack, the YMCA Cafe and the liquor store. He said he had never seen anything like it in 35 years.

The Civil Defence centre activated by Nelson Tasman Civil Defence Emergency Management in response to the flooding in the Victory area was stood down just after 6pm last night.

Parts of Nelson South around Tipahi St and Kawai St, as well as properties in Alfred St, were awash as sewers overflowed and mixed with stormwater rushing down the streets at the height of the cloudburst around 3pm.

Traffic was backed up along Waimea Rd, which was closed between Bishopdale and Nelson Hospital because of the flooding. Streets off Waimea Rd quickly became congested as drivers sought alternative routes home at school closing time.

Rocks Rd was reduced to one lane because of a slip but reopened to two lanes last evening, the NZ Transport Agency said.

Parent Aaron Brown said he was on his way to Nelson Central School when he was was directed from Waimea Rd into Kawai St.  He was surprised to find it flooded, with the water flowing very fast.

"It was quite intense, and the area was saturated."

Kawai St resident Amanda Sears said she was amazed by the sudden flooding.

"I couldn’t believe it flooded, because it hasn’t happened here [before].

"It’s really sad, because neighbours have been flooded, and now the water has dispersed, their properties are really muddy."

At the flood’s peak, there was a rushing river right across the road and residents were frantically trying to barricade their properties, Sears said. She was worried for a schoolgirl who was walking home and was up to her knees in water on the footpath.

Gordon Smith, who lives in Tipahi St South, watched as the water got higher and higher before entering his shed.

"We’ve lived here 50 years and not seen anything like it."

He said it was strange that nearby York Stream was not full, yet there was water everywhere.

"Something, somewhere has blocked up."

Tipahi St resident Natalie Cozens  said the flash flooding was "amazing".

"I moved my car because the water was suddenly up to the door. The garage is full of furniture I’m storing from friends and family, and it’s now all wet."

Afterwards, Debbie Heaphy was shovelling her driveway gravel off Waimea Rd and back on to her property. 

Heaphy, who lives opposite Nelson South Kindergarten, said a storm drain on her neighbour’s property couldn’t handle the torrent of water, which overflowed through her garden and driveway. The same thing happened during heavy rain in December 2011.

Heaphy said the torrent was so strong that it washed the gravel and dirt out of her driveway and lifted parts of the tarseal, exposing pipes underneath.

Parts of her garden were also washed away.

Last night Nelson Fire Service crews pumped water out from behind the Victory shops and washed down the footpaths in front of them.

The Nelson Mail