Clean­ing up af­ter the del­uge

Katikati Advertiser - - News - — Kiri Gille­spie and Chris Steel

Katikati is in cleanup mode af­ter be­ing drenched by heavy rain over Queen’s Birthday week­end with

53mm of rain in one hour. Humphrey, the town’s sea lion sculpture at The Land­ing was in his el­e­ment surrounded by wa­ter.

But when wa­ter rushed through Bhupin­der Bhard­waj’s front doors, the main road shop­keeper could do lit­tle more than watch card­board boxes and teabags float around his store in front of him.

Bhard­waj owns Spice Traders with wife Anu.

Both spent Mon­day clean­ing up a thick blan­ket of mud and silt left be­hind af­ter flood­wa­ter swamped parts of Katikati.

Met­ser­vice recorded

53mm of rain in one hour in its weather sta­tion near Katikati on Sun­day, be­tween

4pm and 5pm. At the same time, the Ure­tara Stream burst its banks, over­lap­ping the bridge and swamp­ing State High­way 2 and build­ings, in­clud­ing Bhard­waj’s 100m away.

Bhard­waj saw the swollen stream ris­ing and tried to clear de­bris from a stormwa­ter grate out­side his shop “but I couldn’t do it fast enough”.

“There was very heavy rain. The wa­ter came all of a sud­den with a splash. We didn’t have much time.”

Within 20 min­utes flood­wa­ter out­side his shop rose to his waist while wa­ter in­side reached his up­per an­kles.

Bhard­waj rushed to move bot­tom shelf stock on to higher lev­els “but it was too late for some things”.

“Tea bags and boxes were just float­ing ev­ery­where.”

Bhard­waj has been in Katikati since 2001 and said he had never ex­pe­ri­enced such flood­ing be­fore.

Katikati’s Char­lie Roche said the only flood­ing in his mem­ory that came near to the week­end’s events was in

1973 just be­fore he got mar­ried, “and I’ve been here

50 years”.

“We have had floods be­fore but noth­ing like this. It was like a sea out there.”

Roche joined his son at Bridge­stone Tyre shop across the road from Spice Traders to help move trucks and equip­ment out of ris­ing wa­ter.

Lo­gan Roche said the wa­ter rose ex­cep­tion­ally fast at Bridge­stone, reach­ing knee level in­side his work­shop within 20 min­utes.

Like Bhard­waj, Roche moved every­thing he could to above wa­ter level.

“Our big­gest worry was the trucks and cars go­ing through, cre­at­ing bow waves which were com­ing through here,” he said.

“All that rain runs through town and cre­ates a whirlpool down here.”

Katikati vol­un­teer se­nior fire­fighter Bren­dan Gibbs said the stream was the high­est he had seen in about 20 years.

The bri­gade closed SH2 af­ter a car be­came trapped in flood­wa­ter by the Ure­tara Stream bridge.

“You had cars com­ing through and wa­ter was up to their head­lights.”

Gibbs said the sheer vol­ume of wa­ter made it dif­fi­cult for the bri­gade to help peo­ple in need.

“We had flooded homes and things where we couldn’t do a lot be­cause there was nowhere to pump the wa­ter to.

“The wa­ter was so high, there was nowhere to put it. There’s only so much you can do when there’s so much wa­ter ev­ery­where.”

Met­ser­vice me­te­o­rol­o­gist Claire Flynn said 53mm of rain in one hour was “huge”.

“It’s not of­ten we see num­bers like that.”

Done­gal Place res­i­dent Jeff Litch­field said the new sus­pen­sion bridge was un­der­wa­ter and wa­ter was pour­ing into a horse pad­dock be­low his house.

“From our house which over­looks the new walk­way where the swing bridge is, it was also un­der­wa­ter.

The morn­ing af­ter the mud and silt left be­hind was plain to see— as was the rub­ble on the bridge as well, he said. Also piles of trees were pulled out by the force of wa­ter.

PHOTO / GE­ORGE NO­VAK

Katikati Spice Traders own­ers Bhupin­der and Anu Bhard­waj are left to clean up the mess af­ter flood­wa­ter swept through their store, left.

PHOTO / JEFF LITCH­FIELD.

At 5.30pm on Sun­day the ris­ing wa­ter lev­els saw the new sus­pen­sion bridge and neigh­bour­ing pad­dock un­der­wa­ter.

PHOTO / JOHN STRONG­MAN.

Humphrey was in his el­e­ment— surrounded by wa­ter at The Land­ing. The jetty too was un­der­wa­ter.

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