West Auckland residents were hit with severe thunderstorms, followed by torrential flooding on Monday night. Two days on and many residents are still in cleanup mode, some of whom are still unable to move back inside. Elizabeth Binning spoke to residents mopping up three Huapai homes about the downpour and the damage it left behind.
WE KAYAKED THE KIDS OUT AT 3AM
It was 3am when Steph and Brendon Deacon decided to it was time to abandon their home – so they grabbed their young children from their beds and paddled to safety on kayaks.
The couple, who live at the end of Pinotage Place, said were one of several residents assessing the damage after the torrential downpour which saw many flee their homes in the early hours of Tuesday morning.
Brendon said he stayed up until about 1.30am to keep an eye on the rising water – which had made it to a front step in the past – but it hadn't risen any further for a while so he went to bed.
They might not have been any wiser had their 4-year-old not woken up about an hour later because her nightlight had gone out.
Steph went in to her daughter before heading to the kitchen for a glass of water but nothing came out - the power was out and the pump had stopped working.
She woke her husband and they were shocked to see how high the water had risen and decided it was time to leave.
"It literally went from the end of the path at 1.30 to chest-deep at 2.30," said Brendon.
"We kayaked the kids out at about 3am," said Steph.
While they were more worried about not having any power or water than their safety their daughter was upset to be leaving the house in such a dramatic way.
Their 1-year-old was probably too young to understand what was happening.
"[Steph] just picked her up out of her cot and jumped onto a kayak."
They paddled both girls to safety which was about halfway up their street and ended up staying with relatives for the night. They are expecting to remain there for a few days until the utilities are up and working again.
While they are lucky the water never made it inside their home Brendon estimates there's about $70,000 of damage to their cars, tools, fencing and other items outside.
"We got off so lightly, it's really just getting all the electrics and plumbing sorted [so we can move back in]," said Steph. "We are really lucky."
While the section has flooded before it was nothing like the levels it reached this time.
"It was crazy, hopefully this is a once in a lifetime event but it's a bit scary thinking about climate change and the impact we are having."
'THERE WASN'T MUCH I COULD DO'
As floodwaters rushed through Daniel Bott's backyard the Huapai resident could only hope one of the many objects flowing through at great speed didn't hit the posts holding up the front of his home.
"There was so much timber coming down through here," said the Rheingold Pl resident.
"There wasn't much I could do, I just hoped and prayed a big log didn't come past and hit the post."
His property backs on to the Kumeū River which is mostly a small creek that's home to a few eels but quickly spilled its banks during the torrential downpour and rose about 3.5m, flooding his storage area under the house, electrical circuit board and car.
"It's flooded here before but nothing that extreme – that's what it was, an extreme event."
Bott said he couldn't get to his paddleboards which were strapped to the upper side of the carport roof so decided to sit it out inside.
"I was thinking I'm not getting into that water unless I really have to, I didn't want to swim in it because of all the sewerage and I was thinking about Covid and what's been found in the wastewater.
"I just sat tight, spoke to people [neighbours] and tried to keep everyone chilled and said it would be alright. Then I snuggled up all night and had front row seats to everything zooming down the river."
Yesterday he was in cleanup mode. He estimates he's lost about $10,000 of items that were in the storage shed and his work vehicle, valued at about $7000 but now filled with mud, will be written off.
IT WAS LIKE A RIVER UNDER OUR HOUSE
Eleven-year-old Beatrice Springford-Miller admits she was "pretty nervous" when her mum and dad woke her up in the early hours of the morning to say their section was flooding.
"Mum and dad woke us up about 3.30am and told us there was a giant flood outside and once we saw it they told us to pack up a bit of stuff in case we had to leave.
"I was pretty nervous. We kinda figured we would be alright but the power was out and we had to get our torches. Our dog was trying to make us feel better."
Beatrice and her parents and two siblings were yesterday in cleanup mode after floodwaters engulfed the backyard of their Pinotage Place home which is several metres up off the ground.
Dad Shane Miller said they had gone to bed knowing the water was rising – it's flooded before – but it had never gone near the house so he was shocked to look outside at 3am and see if creeping well up over the outdoor stairs.
"I looked out our bedroom window and it was flowing like a river under the house, there wasn't a lot we could do."
They had kayaks under the house - which was completely surrounded by water - but couldn't get to them so stayed inside until a friend who lives nearby arrived in a kayak.
Even that was a mission as the driveway gate was locked and Miller had to and pry it open with a hammer – and when it did it floated away in the floodwaters.
At its peak the water rushed like "rapids" through the garage and storage underneath the house, rose about three-quarters of the way up mum Emma Springford-Gough's car and ripped out fencing along the side of the section. Gas bottles and the chest freezer were floating through it and large logs swept through the property, one of which was yesterday resting on an upturned outdoor couch.
An outdoor coffee table remains missing in action.
Miller says he's lost a few thousand dollars worth of electrical tools, a lawn mover and mulcher. Their cars will be written off but it's probably the cost of hiring skips, cleaning up the section and rebuilding the fence that will cost the most.
As for Beatrice, she's not too worried any more saying she's got a "cool" story to share with her friends.
"Now I'm thinking it was actually pretty cool because everything was swept away. There were cars half way through floods and roading was cut off," she said. "I'm glad we are alright though and our cat was alright."