Pre-Easter storm causes havoc

Trees down, power out across region

Last updated 15:56 17/04/2014
heavy rain
ALDEN WILLIAMS/FAIRFAX NZ

BLOCKED: A large tree leaves Waimea Rd cut off after coming down in high winds.

heavy rain
MARION VAN DIJK/FAIRFAX NZ Zoom
A contractor from Downer cuts through large branches of bluegum tree that blocked the road to the Ngawhatu Pool where a group of people were waiting for the road to be unblocked.
Maitai River
ALDEN WILLIAMS/Fairfax NZ
SWELL AND HIGH WATER: Heavy rain caused the swollen Maitai River to burst its banks on Wednesday morning.

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Heavy rain and high winds have taken their toll on the Nelson region, bringing down trees, cutting power to thousands of homes and closing roads.

Waimea Rd has been closed because of a tree down near Motueka St, and trees were also down in Collingwood St, Kawai St, at the bottom of Jenner Rd and the Washington Valley area.

Roads closed

Richmond’s Salisbury Rd was closed and most of Waimea College’s students had to leave across the school’s back fields after a large branch  broke from an historic poplar tree fell and on the  road  uring strong wind gusts.

The large branch fell in mid-afternoon raising fears for the safety of the  college’s students, staff and parents  if more branches fell.

Police closed the road and  diverted traffic while working out  how to get the  tudents out of the college and away from the tree, which is located near the school’s bus bay.

Bus students gathered  in the college’s hall and  were shepherded to  their buses, which  were moved to the far side of Salisbury Rd and away from the damaged tree.

Parents  picking up their children were allowed  part way up the road to a common collection point. Neighbouring Waimea Intermediate was also affected  with students  being safely guided out of the  side of the school away from the wind-damaged tree.

Victory bears brunt of storm

Victory Square was battered as sustained gusts of wind sent a shed roof smashing into a fence meters from a bystander and tree branches bigger than 4WD trucks were strewn across St Vincent Street.

''The top of a shed came flying into my house and broke the fence,'' said Ally Ross, a Victory Square resident.

Shanna Russell was busy moving branches of the road, to help clear a path for the waylaid motorists. She was with a posse of people who had been passing by, who chose to lend a hand including Miro Star, Yakup Kilinc and Kurtis James Thin.

''Well, my house is being attacked by sticks, so I thought I would just come out and move stuff around,'' said Russell.

Hospital on lockdown

Nelson Hospital staff informed patients and visitors at 2pm today that nobody was to leave the building.

A hospital spokesperson said the order was put in place as a safety measure for 20 minutes during the height of the storm.

Heritage trees uprooted

Six heritage oak trees have stood on Peter Lawless’ Kawai St property for 135 years, but now two are lying across his garage instead.

Lawless said he had taken his car into town for ten minutes before returning to find four trees in his garden had fallen down shortly before 2pm. He said it could easily have fallen on him while he was in the car.

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As well as the two toppled oak trees, a large totora tree and a liquid amber had succumbed to the wind. The totora broke a window in his house.

‘‘It was quite dramatic... I got here and the shed had disappeared.’’

Lawless’ house is named ‘‘Seven Oaks’’ for seven oak trees which were planted from acorns brought to New Zealand from England. One had come down prior to the storm, while only four now remain standing.

The fall affected Lawless’ phone lines and his neighbours’ power.

‘‘It’s pretty amazing because that tree has withstood everything until now.’’

Lawless said he had been in Cairns, Australia, last week when the same cyclone hit that area.
Neighbour Sean Taylor lost the corrugated-iron roof of his garden shed

Power lines down

Nick Ward was driving along Main Road Stoke by Bunnings when a big tree at Saxton Field crashed down in strong wind taking out a power line.

''I heard a loud crack, there was a flash and a bang and it came down partly blocking the road.'

An awning with two six-meter long metal poles narrowly missed hitting cars as it shot 30 meters across a busy Nelson road, on the fly.

The projectile had ripped free from outside Coupland's Bakery, twisting and snapping the galvanized tin. It the shot ''like an arrow'' clear across Vanguard Street, between and at the same height as a steady stream of cars.

It was blown from the bakery across a car park, two lanes of traffic, finally coming to ground in the car park of Godfreys.

Staff from shops in the area rushed to contain the situation, jumping on the awning poles as the strong gusts threatened to send it airborne once more.

Video: Derek Sivers

Seniors trapped in pool

A fallen gum tree trapped about a dozen arthritic elderly people at the Ngawhatu Pool during a storm.

Arthritis New Zealand runs seven water-based classes at Ngawhatu Pool per week. Stoke woman Jane Filmer said one class was about to leave the pool complex and another had just arrived when a blue gum measuring about 25 metres fell across the driveway, blocking their exit.

Filmer said the people were not well-prepared for spending hours at the pool. The tree fell down shortly after 11am.

‘‘Everybody’s alright but they’ll be getting a bit faint with hunger soon... One woman didn’t even have any clothes. She was dropped off in her dressing gown.’’

Regional coordinator Rae Svarnas said the volunteer in charge had the situation under control, and had been sharing out jellybeans. Police and the fire service had been informed.

‘‘There is water, it’s relatively warm and they can be inside.’’

Council contractors from Downer arrived at 12pm, approximately an hour after the tree fell. The foreman said it would take about two hours to be chainsawed apart and removed with the help of a crane.

The Nelson City Council said the incident was the first of its kind today, although fallen trees caused havoc across the Nelson region later in the afternoon.

Slip on Takaka Hill

A slip on Takaka Hill has closed the road to one lane.

An NZTA spokesman said there would be minor delays while crew dealt to the debris. 

The slip is 3km east of Upper Takaka and 12km northwest of Brooklyn. 

The spokesman said crews would be patrolling the roads during Easter to take care of other weather-related debris, and advised motorists to be careful and patient when driving in the wet weather.

Warnings issued

Civil Defence is warning Nelson Tasman residents of potential flooding and slips as heavy rain and gales hit the region today.

Nelson Tasman Region Civil Defence issued the warning this afternoon, after Metservice predicted 200- to 300mm of further rain in some places and gales in exposed areas.

Gusts of up to 110kmh could be expected between 6am and 6pm tomorrow, "mainly about higher areas and exposed parts of Golden Bay". 

Two hundred millimetres of rain already fell in some areas last night, adding to 200mm over the past eight days.

Because the land is already saturated, flooding and land slips are possible in the following regions:

* Northern Richmond ranges into Nelson and beyond,

* Riwaka and Motueka west bank,

*Abel Tasman National Park,

* the hills behind Takaka.

Rivers, particularly the Maitai, Brook, Wakapuaka, Riwaka, Anatoki and Waingaro will be under close observation.

Civil Defence warned care should also be taken around tributaries to these rivers, and around creeks in the national park. 

Strong winds and wet ground could also lead to tree damage.

Council staff and Civil Defence will monitor the situation overnight and into tomorrow.

NEED TO KNOW:

WHERE TO ACCESS SANDBAGS

Sandbags are available at Sand and Land, 56 Pascoe St Tahunanui. Filled sandbags cost $4 each. Sand & Land is open from 8am to 5pm, including weekends.

Sandbags will also be available at Millers, 127 Bolt Road Tahunanui,  where filled sandbags will cost $5 each. Millers is open 8am till 3pm on Saturday and 10am till 2pm on Sunday.

The bags themselves are less than one dollar and you can choose to fill your own.

HOW TO USE SANDBAGS

Sandbags are not waterproof and are best used in directing water flow rather than keeping property dry.

They are not stored pre-filled as they will begin to rot when put into storage in contact with the damp.

Keep bags dry and separate from sand (or soil) until needed.

They require time and effort to fill and place and so generally need to be filled and placed in advance of an event rather than in the middle of an event.

Filled sandbags are very heavy. Generally only half-fill as this allows for easier and better placement.

Stack them like bricks, overlapping.

ALTERNATIVE SOLUTION

Sheets of PVC are a practical way to waterproof around doors provided they are fixed in place adequately.

FURTHER HELP

As a general rule residents are responsible for looking after themselves.

If you are in danger, your property is under immediate threat please contact emergency services on 111.

NELSON FORECAST

Rain is expected to pick up again overnight Wednesday, with heavy falls during Thursday and possibly Friday.

In the 21 hours from 3am to midnight Thursday, expected 200 to 300mm about the ranges of northwest Nelson, with 70 to 100mm about some low lying areas.

Heaviest falls are expected from late Thursday morning through to Thursday evening, when rates could reach 30 to 50mm per hour about the ranges of northwest Nelson.

FORECAST FOR MARLBOROUGH, INCLUDING THE RICHMOND RANGES AND THE KAIKOURA COAST AND RANGES

Rain is expected to pick up again early Thursday, with heavy falls through to early Friday morning. In the 21 hours from 6am Thursday to 3am Friday, expected 200 to 300mm about the ranges, with 70 to 100mm about some low lying areas. Heaviest falls are expected during afternoon and evening, when rates could reach 25 to 40mm per hour about the ranges.

- The Nelson Mail

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