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Friday, December 16, 2011

Weather Bomb

It seems to me that this is a newish expression, but one that describes perfectly what has been happening here. 
We live in a lush green valley - we get a lot of rain compared to many places in New Zealand and we have a flourishing dairy industry because of that.  But this week we had exceptional downpours up in our hills that lasted for days which have caused us some serious problems.
Our little settlement is nestled against the hills overlooking the beach on the eastern side of the Bay and we normally have a more moderate amount of rain than some areas here.  However on Wednesday we had rain of epic proportions which caused drastic damage.
I closed the shop early and was surprised by the amount of surface water on the road as I drove home, but this happens occasionally here, so while it was an inconvenience it wasn't a huge surprise.
The first we knew of the real trouble to come was when the Toy Boy went to the gate to collect the mail and came back saying that there was a river of mud going down our road and that he would collect the mail later, once it had subsided a bit.  I went back with him to take a look and in that short time the river had become a torrent of filthy mud laden water carrying tree branches, fence posts and rocks. The smell of it was incredible - the smell of mud!
We watched in amazement as the water gouged out the seal on the road and coursed a path  down through our neighbours properties, sweeping through over and around everything in its path.  It was truly frightening, especially as it didn't let up for hours.
Soon after this the slips started all around the neighbouring hillside properties with huge slices laden with bush falling onto the properties beneath them.  Our property is up on a rise with a sheer cliff face, just like a lot of our neighbours properties, and we watched in terrified fascination and waited for ours to go!
Night fell and we reluctantly went to bed, but we had learnt some lessons from friends who had gone through the Christchurch earthquakes and left clothes and shoes laid out and a bag with torches etc, ready to flee if we should need to.  We lay there and listened to the roar of the torrent on the road and wondered if those thundering noises we could hear were slips and where were they?
Daylight brought the opportunity to go out and take another look and we were shocked to see that our road looked like a river bed with water and  mud everywhere.  Our poor neighbours whose homes were in the path of the torrent had mud right through their houses and properties.  The whole area looks like a war zone.

We've had a couple of days to process all of this - the council and kind locals have all pitched in to help with the clean up - or what cleaning up can be done - it is still raining, though rather more gently, and we had a period of sunshine yesterday morning.
The hillsides are still slipping occasionally. 
From what we hear from neighbouring bays we may have gotten off lightly.  Nearby Pohara Valley is very badly affected and one of my good walking friends is still stranded on her property with no vehicle access and no obvious solution in sight.  They have craters in their road the size of large buildings.  The next bay around, Ligar Bay is also very badly affected and only now incredible stories and pictures are emerging.  A whole dairy farm in Wainui Bay is apparently covered in mud.  Houses and vehicles are gone and displaced.
I was speaking to a shocked friend yesterday who told of her elderly neighbour who was sitting in his lounge talking to her on the phone when the line went dead.  She called and went outside to see a lahar of mud enveloping his home and her studio and workshop.  The poor old fellow was found out in the paddock in the wreckage and taken to hospital where he is recovering.
 The entire western end of Golden Bay is isolated due to an enormous slip in the only road link to that area and we are waiting for a temporary bridge to be built, maybe today, so they can get through.  Food and supplies have been shipped into there by sea!  Ironically we believe there is little storm damage there.
There is talk of debris being left by logging work being the cause - who knows?  I guess the causes and blame game will begin once we are past the stage of being shocked and the state of emergency has come to an end.
I just found this video on YouTube taken by Heather, one of our neighbours.  There has been incredible footage taken by lots of people around the Bay, but these are all taken just around our home.
For now, our house is undamaged and we are safe, though we are carefully watching a small slip on our bank.
We feel so fortunate to have come through this relatively unscathed when so many of our friends and neighbours have lost so much.


sukipoet said...

OMG so glad you are okay. that's dreadful. like a nightmare. the pictures look like the Vermont roadways during and after hurricane Irene. Stay safe. Thanks for sharing. I had no idea.

Stitchbird said...

Heart breaking. Mother nature does seem to have been particulalry ferocious this year. Thinking of you. L