Brooklyn ‘surreal’ during Gita’s fury
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’’.
Biff Kitson stands on Old Mill Road, Brooklyn as flood waters rise during ex-cyclone Gita.