Thankful as wind-blown giant misses family home

By Roger Moroney

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It was about 8.45pm when the tree came down without warning. Photo / Glenn Taylor
It was about 8.45pm when the tree came down without warning. Photo / Glenn Taylor

For Te Pohue resident Yvonne Ratahi and her family the daunting sound of gale-force winds buffeting their home last Tuesday night was replaced by the terrifying sound of a huge blue gum tree crashing across their driveway and demolishing a wood shed.

Had the tree fallen a few metres to one side it would have struck the bedroom Mrs Ratahi had been in.

"At first I thought it was an earthquake," she said yesterday while her nerves were still settling.

"There was a real boom and I thought, 'Uh-oh ... now we'll get the shaking'."

But the shaking never came - although she admitted there was shaking going on ... but it was her.

Mrs Ratahi and her husband Geoff have lived at Te Pohue for the past 18 years, and had run the hotel there which was now closed, but which they had turned into their home.

It was about 8.45pm when the tree came down without warning.

"Just a loud crack and a bang."

While that was unnerving she was even more unnerved by the fact that the tree that fell was the smallest beside the property.

"There are a couple of really big ones out there."

Her sister and son Joshua were also in the house and it was Joshua who went out to see what had happened.

"I didn't want to go outside."

She said it was the first time a tree had come down in the area since they had lived there, and hoped it would be the last.

The family got to work and had the fallen tree cut up and removed on Wednesday and were now looking to get the upper branches of the other towering blue gums lopped off.

"Well the bright spot is that at least we've got plenty of very good firewood for next winter - but I don't want to think about what might have happened if it had hit the bedroom."

One of Mrs Ratahi's Te Pohue neighbours and friends, Jacqui Hancock, said the winds appeared to have come early this year. "It's usually around the equinox they start, and into next month."

She, too, had concerns about some of the towering blue gums around her property, although none had shown signs of falling victim to wind at this stage.

"Although we had some guttering come down on to the decking."

She said the recent belts of heavy rain, coupled with the arrival of high winds, had destabilised the ground around the trees. "The rain loosened everything - so when you get the winds they can come down."

While she loved the landscape of trees she admitted it was a bit of a worry, but only during the time of the year when the spring gales blew up.

"And it really started to blow up last Sunday and then by Tuesday it was, 'Oh my God'!"

The Metservice forecast is, for the moment, on the side of the Te Pohue community and others in exposed areas of the region as the weather system that caused the wind had moved away.

Today's forecast is for light winds and a temperature of 17C, while northwesterlies are set to bring showers tomorrow before turning to southwesterlies and more showers on Sunday.

No wind warnings have been issued for the Bay.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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