Cleaning up after the deluge
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.
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
“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.
Katikati Spice Traders owners Bhupinder and Anu Bhardwaj are left to clean up the mess after floodwater swept through their store, left.
At 5.30pm on Sunday the rising water levels saw the new suspension bridge and neighbouring paddock underwater.
Humphrey was in his element— surrounded by water at The Landing. The jetty too was underwater.