Brook­lyn ‘sur­real’ dur­ing Gita’s fury

The Leader (Tasman) - - GARDENING - CARLY GOOCH

As a car floated down the road past Biff Kit­son’s prop­erty, it hit her that it ‘‘prob­a­bly wasn’t safe to self­e­vac­u­ate now’’.

Biff Kit­son and Deanna Vick­ers own their home on Old Mill Rd in Brook­lyn, shared with sev­eral chick­ens, Monty the dog and Speights the cat.

Kit­son said noth­ing could have pre­pared them for the strength of the flood waters which en­veloped their home and coursed through ev­ery room in the house when ex­cy­clone Gita struck the area on Tues­day af­ter­noon.

The cou­ple al­ways had an emer­gency kit at the ready which in­cluded water, choco­late, pet food, canned food, a torch and ra­dio. It was some­thing they couldn’t do with­out af­ter liv­ing through the Christchurch earth­quakes in 2011.

They didn’t have sand bags but Kit­son said, ‘‘sand bags weren’t gonna stop this’’.

‘‘Cars float­ing down the road isn’t go­ing to be helped by sand bags.’’

Kit­son said Vick­ers tried to re­duce the mud flow by plac­ing a box­ing bag at the front door, which helped a lit­tle.

Kit­son works across the road from her house, so when she walked home just af­ter 4pm on Tues­day to see the water start­ing to rise - though ‘‘not as high as the last storm’’ - she went back to work to stock up with sand bags.

She said when she re­turned home 30 min­utes later, the water was al­ready in the garage.

‘‘By 5.30pm we had water com­ing in our house, and the house is prob­a­bly on 600mm piles.’’

It was around this time that she saw a car float past their home and that was when she thought evac­u­at­ing with­out as­sis­tance was no longer an op­tion.

‘‘The road was like a river.’’ Kit­son said she ‘‘smashed’’ a hole in their hedge to get ac­cess to their neigh­bour and her cat.

When the cou­ple saw the water re­ced­ing on the road, they loaded up their 4WD with their emer­gency kit, Speights, Monty and their neigh­bour. The chick­ens were be safe in their coop.

As they were about to leave, a vol­un­teer fire brigade fire­man in a trac­tor and trailer told them they wouldn’t get through in their 4WD.

So the group piled on board be­fore be­ing col­lected by a New Zealand De­fence Force Un­i­mog.

They were taken to the Motueka Re­cre­ation Cen­tre evac­u­a­tion point where they were picked up by fam­ily mem­bers.

On Wed­nes­day, Kit­son and Vick­ers re­turned to their home to sur­vey the dam­age. They said they were in shock.

Both their cars were write-offs as mud had risen in through the ex­hausts, the floor in their home was a mud bath and there were gum­boot marks a foot deep around the pe­riph­ery of their house.

‘‘There’s noth­ing we can do right now, at least it’s not rain­ing – then again, the hot and dry is go­ing to make the mud set and it’s go­ing to start to stink,’’ Kit­son said.

‘‘It’s still a lit­tle bit sur­real. We don’t re­ally know what to do.

‘‘We learnt af­ter the earth­quakes ... we’re safe, pets are safe, we’ve got some­where to go, so you just get on with it re­ally.’’

The veg­etable gar­den she had la­bo­ri­ously tended to over the last two years was ‘‘a bit rooted’’.

The ku­mara, toma­toes, chillis, beet­root, cap­sicums and car­rots were ined­i­ble due to pos­si­ble con­tam­i­na­tion of the prop­erty.

Most of the houses on Old Mill Rd, in­clud­ing the cou­ple’s home, run off sep­tic tanks.

The pair had com­mer­cial clean­ers out on Wed­nes­day and their in­sur­ance com­pany had been in touch.

Kit­son re­flected on the speed that the flood waters took over the road and their prop­erty.

‘‘The thing is, you see these peo­ple on the news, and you think, ‘What d*ck heads, why didn’t you evac­u­ate ear­lier?’

‘‘[It’s] be­cause it hap­pened so quickly.’’

She said when you see a car float past ‘‘you’re safer at home’’.

SUP­PLIED

Biff Kit­son stands on Old Mill Road, Brook­lyn as flood waters rise dur­ing ex-cy­clone Gita.

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