Little left to call home after storm

Wallingford Way was ravaged by last week's tornado. Alanah Eriksen spoke to its still shaken residents.

Anthony Lings and Rochelle Wech from Hobsonville. Photo / Greg Bowker
Anthony Lings and Rochelle Wech from Hobsonville. Photo / Greg Bowker

Leading Aircraftman Rochelle Wech had just set up home in Wallingford Way with her boyfriend after a six-month deployment in East Timor when the tornado hit.

Now the house the 22-year-old shared with her partner, Aircraftman Anthony Lings, 20, will probably be demolished.

Their Defence Force house at number 15 was not the worst hit - windows were broken and furniture drenched - but is unsafe because the attached homes on either side suffered extensive damage.

The couple yesterday picked up some belongings, which they took back to the Hobson Motor Inn where other members of the Defence Force, which owned most of the houses on the street, have been relocated.

The pair believe trees at the back of the property blocked corrugated fencing and tiles from other homes hitting theirs.

Miss Wech was part of New Zealand's last rotation of troops to East Timor, which returned about six weeks ago. "I was so glad I was back here when it happened," she said.

"Otherwise I would be worrying about everyone."

At number 3, Sergeant Aaron Jeffries was mowing his lawns and tidying up when the Herald visited.

Windows were smashed in the house, a ponga fence flattened, the garage roof torn off and the rear window of Mr Jeffries' silver Falcon XR6 smashed and the car dented.

"Our section was like a scrap yard for everyone's stuff," he said.

"A 44-gallon drum ended up here." Mr Jeffries had also being staying at the motor inn with his wife, while their three children, aged 16, 11 and 9, were staying with their grandparents. His 16-year-old daughter, Katelyn, was the only one home during the storm and hid in a closet with the family's terrified pet Staffordshire bull terrier, Zack.

He said Katelyn was "pretty traumatised by the whole thing, as you can imagine". The family took the dog back to their home yesterday but it hid under a piece of furniture and refused to come out.

They were allowed "short-period access" to grab clothing and food, but were awaiting a full assessment of the home, which was still without power.

Next-door neighbour Tony Gold, his wife and their two daughters lost their pet goldfish after their tanks smashed during the storm. Neighbours ran inside after the worst of the weather passed to save two kittens.

The family had lived at the home for only two months. They are unlikely to live there again after the ceiling fell in, windows were smashed and the master bedroom flooded.

The fence separating the house from the road was ripped out, gardens ruined and the letterbox squashed.

Mr Gold, who works as a painter, had yesterday put his wet bed outside in the sun in an attempt to dry it out.

He had just missed the storm on Thursday after a last-minute trip to the bank on the way home.

Had someone been in the lounge when a large window was shattered, they could have been seriously hurt, he believes.

"I heard there was a tornado in Hobsonville and said 'I hope it's not my house'," Mr Gold said.

"Then I came home and realised 'Holy hell, it's our street'."

Leading Aircraftman Malina Opo, 29, stood in the hallway during the storm to protect himself from shattered windows at his home at number 10a, where he lives with his wife.

"I was watching TV and it sounded like hail," he said. "I looked out the window and saw the rain going horizontally and other flying objects, so I quickly closed the curtains again and waited until it passed."

Mr Opo then went outside to help his neighbours clear the road so the fire service could get in to assist residents.

"The first thing I saw when I came outside was the neighbour's dog," Mr Opo said.

"I could see the fear in his eyes and I just knew what he was thinking about."

He said he also feared for the safety of the men working on a construction site at Hobsonville High School down the road.

Three contractors died when concrete blocks fell on them.

Jane Staunton, who works as an at-home child carer, had a car full of children in her minivan when she returned home, just after the storm.

"I am so lucky I wasn't home with all the kids as they would have been terrified," she said.

The mother-of-one, who lives at the house with partner Duncan McInnes and their son Cooper, 9 months, were yesterday moving back to number 10 after their power was turned back on.

Their home was spared major damage when a large tree on the front lawn fell away from the house.

One of the bedrooms at the house was flooded after windows were left open, but it was otherwise unscathed.

- NZ Herald

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