Homes still without power after storm
Taihape and Mangaweka residents felt like they were alone at the end of the world, as their phone batteries died and the rest of the country disappeared behind a wall of snow.
Truck drivers and holidaymakers were stuck in motels, and farmers and residents were cut off for up to two days as roads became unpassable and power was cut when heavy rain, strong winds and snow battered the country last week.
Power returned to Taihape on Saturday, and late on Sunday in Mangaweka. But about 1000 nearby rural homes were still waiting in the dark.
Taihape resident Nona Parks said the uncertainty was very isolating, with no way of knowing when everything would return to normal.
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"When the phones went flat, we couldn't call anybody. There was no power and no technology," Parks said.
"It was like living at the end of the world," visitor Annabel Chase said.
Chase, a Kawerau resident for the past two years, was in Taihape visiting her grandchildren just before the storm hit. She and Parks had united to entertain the children, who were bored.
An old Kent wood fireplace kept them warm through the outage, and they taught the children how to make stews and toast bread on the fireplace.
"The grandkids loved the food. It was all slow-cooked, so it tasted very different from what they usually eat," Chase said.
Mangaweka farmer Andrew King said knee-high snow, which reached 60 centimetres in places, left his family cut off in the hills above the town for two days.
His children, Liam, 7, and Aria, 6, had a great time playing in the snow at first, but soon got bored of being stuck at home.
"It was all good fun, but as soon as they got too wet and cold the novelty wore off."
King said they still didn't know when the power was coming back, but they had a generator.
"If it had been six weeks later, during lambing season, it would've been a disaster for us."
King was among a group of farmers who helped clear fallen trees and debris from country roads.
Those with generators braved the weather to cycle them to small groups of homes. Others gathered for impromptu feasts to share food that couldn't be saved.
Powerco brought over 40 generators into the region for the households that needed them most.
Powerco operations manager Phil Marsh said crews aimed to restore power in the Taihape, Waiouru and Mangaweka regions on Tuesday and Wednesday, but work was weather-dependent.
Worker safety was a major concern and crew welfare was being carefully monitored, he said.
Further helicopter reconnaissance in the Mangaweka region revealed a much greater level of damage than first thought.
"When they took off this morning we knew of 10 faults. A much closer inspection has bumped that to 36."
The company understood how frustrated residents were, and would keep the community regularly updated, Marsh said.