Families were traumatised by yesterday's flood disaster, Sergeant Rob Crawford says.
He met evacuated families as they were flown into Tapawera, firstly at the emergency base at the fire station and later at the playing fields by the Tapawera rugby clubrooms.
"We are lucky there has not been loss of life or serious injury," he said.
Some highway travellers between Motueka and Tapawera came close to it when a flash flood at 11am nearly caught them. One was on a scooter and others in a four-wheel-drive.
"A few more seconds and they would have ended up in the Motueka River."
Many evacuees were in tears over their ordeal and the damage to their homes. They were assessed by Red Cross, and help from Victim Support was being arranged.
Red Cross Tasman area manager Fraser Benson said those evacuated were registered and provided with hot drinks and food. Many Tapawera residents had offered them places to stay, as had the pub.
The welfare centre closed at 5.30pm.
Up to 20 households were isolated and the Summit Rescue Helicopter made repeated trips to transport 13 evacuees to Tapawera, but some families opted to stay. The crew winched down to a family at Stoney Creek whose home was above the river but unable to be reached by road. They had supplies and chose not to leave.
St John Ambulance team leader Jon Leach said he helped pull 12 families out of the area yesterday, many with homes awash with mud and debris.
"Some of the houses were just absolutely saturated, but they are a pretty resilient lot up there."
Inspector Iain McKenzie was hopeful almost all the families would be able to return to their homes today. However, there were two or three properties more severely damaged.
"One was described as having a river running through it."
Mr McKenzie said the action taken was a real testament to the community and the more than 30 volunteers that helped during the day.
Insurance assessors would be looking at the damaged properties over the next 24 hours.
Mr McKenzie warned roads would be greasy for some time and people needed to drive to the conditions. It was the fourth-largest flood on record for the Baton River. At one stage 17 millimetres of rain fell in 15 minutes.
Weather forecaster John Mathieson said about 122mm had fallen in Nelson this month, well above the average May rainfall of 77.7mm – most in the past few days.
Mr Mathieson wasn't surprised by the deluge, having predicted the occurrence of a low coming from the North Tasman and sitting off Farewell Spit. Nelson was sheltered from every direction except from the northeast, he said.
Mr Mathieson said there had been only 4mm of rain in the 12 hours until 6am today. He did not expect continuing weather problems for those trying to clean up from flooding.
"Conditions are on the wane and starting to clear now. The rest of the week will be fairly good through until about Saturday."
- © Fairfax NZ News