Coromandel cut off: Motorists stranded as floods, heavy rain cause havoc

By Lynley Bilby, Melissa Nightingale

Around 30 carloads of holidaymakers have spent the night in their cars stranded by rising floodwaters in the Coromandel.

Prescott's Garages in the small settlement of Hikuai has turned into an unlikely emergency relief centre as road closures trapped dozens of people heading to eastern coastal townships for the school holidays.

Video

Thirty carloads of people were forced to spend an uncomfortable night in their vehicles.

HOW'S THE WEATHER IN YOUR PART OF THE COUNTRY? SEND US YOUR PICS

The flooding had left them with no option but to park up at the garage and hunker down until the road re-opened.

This morning the crowds were in good spirits with garage staff helping those who had now spent more than 12 hours in their parking lot.

Among them were the Parkin family of Whanganui. Mum Darnelle, dad Neil and their two children Ryan,10 and Catherine, 8, had been waiting for 19 hours.

They were hoping to get to Hahei where they've hired a Bach for six days of the school holidays.

They said that even though they've had to spend the past 19 hours in their car - stuck at the SH25 Pauanui Turn-off - it had been a bit of an adventure for their two children Ryan,10 and Catherine, 8.

"We've slept in the car but luckily the toilets were open and the kids had a pie breakfast," Darnelle Parkin said.

The Parkin family of Whanganui, Darnelle and Neil, and Ryan, 10, and Catherine, 8, have been waiting at Prescott's Garage for 19 hours. Photo / Belinda Feek
The Parkin family of Whanganui, Darnelle and Neil, and Ryan, 10, and Catherine, 8, have been waiting at Prescott's Garage for 19 hours. Photo / Belinda Feek

"That's what holidays are all about," Neil Parkin said.

The family booked a bach at Hahei for six days and were due to get their last night.

Pauanui resident Bill Brown had precious family records in the car - including photo albums and birth certificates - going back 100 years so he wasn't going to leave his car.

He said he's always prepared and has a sleeping bag and blanket in the back for situations like this.

He and the owner of another vehicle helped a woman whose car got a flat battery last night.

Meanwhile, Whitianga woman Annmaree Saunders also had precious cargo in her car - her nine-year-old granddaughter Jaydemaree.

Video

She also had precious edible cargo on board - her large load of groceries bought yesterday at Pak N Save Pukekohe.

"We had a weekend in Pukekohe and got here about 7pm ... We came here and the road was blocked off and there were about 70 vehicles here. It was too dangerous to go back, as we had passed a small tree on the road and some rocks on the road so we couldn't go back that way.

"I had done a big Pak N Save shop and there was a group of us in here so I proceeded to give out some of the food ... a man from Chile got some mandarins, lady from Athens got some biscuits and mandarins and gave an Australian couple some grapes ...you can't have people go hungry."

Saunders said they got moved twice during the night as high tide brought the water in up to the petrol station.

Given the further delays expected today she was going to head home via 309 Rd which she lived on.

Meanwhile, friends Barbara Tull and Shirley Dagger of Whitianga got to extend their girls weekend.

The pair had met other friends in Waiheke for a girls weekend but turned up to the Pauanui turn off at 2.30pm yesterday to find the road closed.

The got to extend their weekend another night by staying at their friends motel in Whangamata last night.

However, they were looking forward to getting home today.

"We're sick of wine and food. We're keen to get home now," Tull said.

From left, Jeremy Dekeyser 27, of France, Iris Polker, 29, of Germany and Maria Schmidt, 26, of Germany slept in their car outside Prescott's Garage last night. Photo / Belinda Feek
From left, Jeremy Dekeyser 27, of France, Iris Polker, 29, of Germany and Maria Schmidt, 26, of Germany slept in their car outside Prescott's Garage last night. Photo / Belinda Feek

Coromandel was one of the worst-hit regions in this latest deluge which caused problems throughout the North Island.

Now Gisborne is in the firing line with up to 160mm expected to fall in the region's hills and ranges over the next 24 hours.

First reports of flooding were coming in with Tairawhiti Civil Defence warning surface water on SH35 between Gisborne and Potaka with sections of the road reduced to one lane.

There is also flooding in Hunua in the rural outskirts of south Auckland.

This morning the only road to Pauanui remains closed. Sections are under metre high floodwaters leaving it impassable.

Multiple slips and flooding were today posing problems for motorists across the region with several bridges under threat as swollen rivers breach their banks.

Motorists were warned to drive with extreme caution and watch for rapidly rising waters, and debris on roads from lots of minor slips.

Bill Brown spent the night in his car - luckily he was prepared with a sleeping bag, blanket and water.
Bill Brown spent the night in his car - luckily he was prepared with a sleeping bag, blanket and water.

Since Saturday 340mm of rain has fallen across the region.

Coromandel remained under a severe weather watch with more heavy rain expected to fall later today on the already waterlogged region.

The Kauaeranga River had peaked at 9.4m and the Karangahake River at 15.4m. Latest readings showed both were now dropping.

Coromandel Civil Defence controller Garry Towler said the main concern was the large number of small slips that had come down on roads.

The extent of the damage was still unclear with crews waiting for first light to assess the situation.

Video

Bill Brown, of Pauanui, has been stranded since 6pm yesterday. It's the worst he's seen in it in the seven years he's lived here.

Brown slept in his trusty Honda Civic overnight. He kept warm as always keeps a sleeping bag, blanket and water in the car.

"This is really the first time I've used it."

Rain that lashed much of the country over the weekend is expected to continue. Photo / Metservice
Rain that lashed much of the country over the weekend is expected to continue. Photo / Metservice

While SH25 remained closed south of Tairua a number of slips had come down across roads including SH25 north of Whangamata and at Kuaotunu West, Tapu-Coroglen Rd and Kennedy Bay Rd. Traffic management was in place and motorists could expect intermittent short term closures.

At Port Jackson heavy rainfall meant the Ohinewai Ford was closed to traffic.

Contractors were in the process of clearing debris this morning.

The 309 Rd had reopened after a tree came down blocking the road.

The Wharekara River bridge on SH25 at Opoutere was down to one lane because of high river levels. A council spokesman said a contractor was on site monitoring the levels.

Parts of the Coromandel were without water this morning. Matatoki now had no water and crews were not able reach the water intake to investigate the problem because the bridge was flooded.

Lower Nihotupu Dam in Auckland's Waitakere Ranges after heavy rain. Photo / Supplied via Annette Ashley
Lower Nihotupu Dam in Auckland's Waitakere Ranges after heavy rain. Photo / Supplied via Annette Ashley

Hikutaia and Omahu Valley Rd were expected to be getting water later this morning. The supply from Puriri was being diverted but this was expected to take time to come through.

The council said a valve had become blocked and could not be reached because of high river levels.

In Thames, firefighters had been unable to get through a flooded ford to reach cars stranded in Kauaeranga Valley, leaving the matter in police hands.

Multiple cars had to be pulled out of flood waters by emergency services after the drivers got stuck.

Motorists try to navigate State Highway 25, leaving Pauanui, which was later closed. Photo / Sarah Porter
Motorists try to navigate State Highway 25, leaving Pauanui, which was later closed. Photo / Sarah Porter

Police asked motorists to avoid travel in the area.

There was also a slip on SH3, Mokau River, south of Te Kuiti and another on SH2 at the Karangahake Gorge, causing significant delays.

The Coromandel Peninsula was the wettest place in the country, recording 120mm of rain in 24 hours.

In Auckland, Browns Bay residents are sloshing through flooded areas as rain continues to bucket down.

Resident Michelle Vandenberg described the weather as "pretty relentless".

"It's like someone's turning a tap on and off constantly," she said.

"The far end of Browns Bay by La Tropezienne [Cafe] is really bad, but will drain away as the rain slows.

The rain caused problems for travellers on Tamaki Dr in Auckland. Photo / Michael Craig
The rain caused problems for travellers on Tamaki Dr in Auckland. Photo / Michael Craig

"There was only one car parked in the middle. I think someone left it there last night, so will be surprised when they go and pick it up."

Auckland firefighters went to the Massey University student accommodation block at Albany where water was about to enter the building. They dug drains to divert water away from the building.

There were call-outs to about 12 different places around Auckland to deal with flooding on properties, including flooded basements and garages. A block of three units was flooded in Portadown Ave, Pakuranga.

There was also a slip reported on Scenic Drive in West Auckland.

Flooding on the Hikuai Settlement Road out of Pauanui. Photo / Supplied via Anna Poulgrain
Flooding on the Hikuai Settlement Road out of Pauanui. Photo / Supplied via Anna Poulgrain

Rain was on the cards for most of the week, according to meteorologist Hannah Moes.

"New Zealand is stuck under quite a static weather situation for this week, which means that areas that are seeing rain now are likely to continue seeing rain," she said.

Places in the North Island exposed to the east were likely to continue seeing persistent rainfall.

A severe weather warning was in place for the Coromandel Peninsula and the Western Bay of Plenty, but rains were expected to ease there early today.

A severe weather warning for Gisborne, however, would stay in place. Heavy rain was expected to continue there until early Tuesday morning.

One weather station in the Coromandel Peninsula had recorded 133mm of rain in 24 hours yesterday, making it the rainiest place in the country.

Parts of Auckland had 67mm of rain in 24 hours.

Heavy rain causes flooding at Mt Albert Bowling Club. Photo / Supplied via Lewis Nancekivel
Heavy rain causes flooding at Mt Albert Bowling Club. Photo / Supplied via Lewis Nancekivel

What to do with the kids on rainy days

It's raining, it's pouring, and every five minutes a little voice pipes up, saying "I'm bored."

With school holidays just beginning and rainy weather making itself at home for the rest of the week in many parts of the country, parents may be looking for some new indoor activity that doesn't involve watching the latest popular Disney movie four times in a row every, single day.

Keep the Frozen DVD in its case and try these five activities instead.

Build a blanket hut

No childhood is complete without memories of dragging around couches, chairs, cushions and sheets to build a cosy hut or "fort" in the lounge. Kids will love the chance to make their own secret hideaway, and maybe event invite Mum and Dad in for a visit. Bonus nostalgia points if the cat walks across the blanket roof and plunges, legs and claws flailing, on to the unlucky child beneath.

Set up a treasure hunt

Hide a few treats around the house, write down some clues, and set the kids loose. Some parents may need to resist the urge to hide all the extra-yummy treats high up and get them down later when the kids are asleep.

Bake

Roll up your sleeves, tie on the apron, and break out the flour. You might even toy with the idea of letting the children experiment with food colouring. It's a fun, educational activity that will leave you well-stocked with delicious snacks. Later, watch in horror as the sugar rush hits and the kids must work off the energy inside, out of the rain.

Hold a "circus"

Encourage the kids to hold a circus or talent show. Assuming your children aren't daredevils, most tricks will probably involve doing a forward roll or jumping off a chair. They might even make up a dance routine. They'll get a kick out of having your undivided attention while they perform their dazzling stunts for you.

Make a marble run

This is a great use for all those empty toilet rolls. Grab some Sellotape and help the kids put together a system of tubes for them to race marbles down. Winner gets an extra one of those cupcakes you baked earlier.

Today's weather

• Auckland: Cloudy periods, a few showers and light winds.18C
• Hamilton: Rain easing to a few showers morning. Easterlies.17C
• Tauranga: Periods of rain. Gusty southeasterlies.16C
• Wellington: Mostly cloudy, a few showers. Southeasterlies.14C
• Christchurch: Cloudy, with drizzle at times. Northeasterly picking up.12C
• Dunedin: Cloudy, with drizzle at times. Northeasterly picking up. 12C

Road closures

• SH25 at the intersection with Hikuai Settlement Rd due to flooding
• Ohinewai ford on Port Jackson Rd

Roads affected by slips and flooding

• SH25 Tairua to Whangamata is affected by slips
• Wharekara River bridge on SH25 at Opoutere is down to one lane because of high river levels.
• SH25 Kuaotunu West three large slips on the road.
• SH25 10km north of Whangamata down to one lane due to a slip.
• Tapu-Coroglen Rd open but slips on the road.
• 309 RD open after tree came down across road.
• Kennedy Bay Rd open after slip blocked the road.

- NZ Herald

Get the news delivered straight to your inbox

Receive the day’s news, sport and entertainment in our daily email newsletter

SIGN UP NOW

© Copyright 2016, NZME. Publishing Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production bpcf02 at 04 Dec 2016 21:38:34 Processing Time: 672ms