Jenny Pollard had just returned from a walk when she looked out the window and saw a "river" of water coming down Ngongotaha Valley.

Within minutes it had picked up her caravan and washed it down the street.

"It was really a flash flood. It was totally surreal."

She had hoped her home would be high enough to avoid the water, but the level quickly rose to the wheel arches of the caravan.

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"The van started to shift and then all of a sudden it was floating down the road. My husband and I literally stood inside our house and watched our caravan float away."

Jenny Pollard beside her caravan which had been moved by flooding in Ngongotaha. Photo/Stephen Parker
Jenny Pollard beside her caravan which had been moved by flooding in Ngongotaha. Photo/Stephen Parker

The only relief was that it did not tip.

"We thought it might, but it then hit the fence and stayed upright."

The Pollards found the van this morning against that fence, 60m from their home.

Inside John Healey's garage. Photo / Stephen Parker
Inside John Healey's garage. Photo / Stephen Parker

They are just two of the Ngongotaha residents evacuated yesterday afternoon as a State of Emergency was declared.

They are back in their homes today, starting the massive clean-up.

You can hear soggy brushes sweeping the debris from properties throughout the village.

Brown watery lines with speckles of dirt form rings around the homes, demonstrating the height of the floods.

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Inside John Healey's lounge. Photo / Stephen Parker
Inside John Healey's lounge. Photo / Stephen Parker

When John Healey lifted his garage door up from the mud, he only had two words to say.

"Bloody hell."

He has lived on Oakdale Pl with his wife for nine years and evacuated on Sunday night in the knee-deep, muddy, inundation.

Inside John Healey's lounge. Photo / Stephen Parker
Inside John Healey's lounge. Photo / Stephen Parker
Inside John Healey's garage. Photo / Stephen Parker
Inside John Healey's garage. Photo / Stephen Parker
The water line at John Healey's house. Photo / Stephen Parker
The water line at John Healey's house. Photo / Stephen Parker

"The water just came up so quickly. You would not have believed it could move that fast. I have never experienced anything like it."

Healey was immediately brought to tears when he inspected his home the next day.

The water in and around his house was more than 1m above the floor, the height of his elbows.

He never thought it would be that bad.

"This is bloody terrible. Just devastating."

Apples were strewn across the garage's sopping floor, among saturated books and waterlogged storage boxes and baskets.

The scene was no more comforting when Healey entered the hallway.

"See those drawers there, they're from my bedroom. How did they get in the lounge?"

Not even the caravan outside was spared, the water was up to the seats.

Healey had been on the phone with his insurance company immediately that morning, like most of the neighbourhood.

"It's your worst nightmare. You see this on TV and think 'those poor buggers' but you don't expect it to happen to you."

Just around the corner on Mohi Cres, the Parry family were attempting to make their house liveable again, without hindering insurance assessments to come.

"The cleaners are coming through this morning to assess the house, then the gib people. Then our insurers will get the quotes," Debbie Parry said.

Alison and Debbie Parry. Photo/Stephen Parker
Alison and Debbie Parry. Photo/Stephen Parker

The family has lived there for six years.

They suspected Sunday's damage was caused by the river bursting its banks, rather than the nature of the swampy land.

"I thought we might have been lucky but we were not," Debbie said.

Her 19-year-old son, Troy, and his girlfriend, Alison, were the only ones home when the deluge intensified in the late afternoon.

"I had no idea until I answered the door, and there was just a lake out there. Half of my car was underwater when I looked out," Troy said.

"Troy just spent more than $600 on his car last week replacing the tyres and windscreen to get a warrant," his mother added.

Troy Parry inside his damaged car. Photo/Stephen Parker
Troy Parry inside his damaged car. Photo/Stephen Parker

The car was almost totally submerged when night fell.

Troy and Alison were stranded and had to haul themselves, two cats and the dog up the hill to Hall Rd, where Troy's older brother picked them up.

Further down Western Rd, Heidi Te Are was in disbelief when she returned home.

"The damage was about what I expected but I have no idea where to start. I was on the phone to our insurers and waited for 45 minutes this morning and then it hung up. I do not even know what we are meant to do. I have never done this before."

Heidi Te Are inside her home. Photo/Stephen Parker
Heidi Te Are inside her home. Photo/Stephen Parker

She said she could only keep telling herself "It was only stuff".

"People are much more important."

Te Are has been living on Western Rd for 16 months.

She said the only thing she would have saved if she could have, was a box of all of her photos in the garage.

"By the time I knew about the flood, the water had got to them. I was storing them in there while doing up the house ... My grandparents and parents were in those pictures. Everyone that is dead, basically."

She was waist deep in water when she realised there was nowhere she could go, safely.

"Thankfully the fire crews got us out. I am surprised there was nobody hurt."

Western Rd resident Rebecca Brake considered herself one of the lucky ones because her house was unscathed, but it was a different story for her sister.

The water line at John Healey's house. Photo / Stephen Parker
The water line at John Healey's house. Photo / Stephen Parker

"We were at my sister's house a couple of doors down at a birthday party. We left and 10 minutes later, she sent a photo, and there was a river running through the house."

Brake's sister and others at the party were rescued by a Duck Tours boat.

Brake housed 15 people overnight, including strangers.

"We were trying to invite everyone who looked like they didn't have a home. We had Civil Defence and fire crews coming to our door asking if we wanted to evacuate. They kept coming and doing head counts to make sure everyone was accounted for."

Today Lake Rd is bone dry and inside residents are happy for the geothermal heating drying out their homes and businesses.

Carl Hanson was out clearing drains all afternoon yesterday and didn't finish till 10pm.

"I could hear everything floating around in their [the neighbours'] garage yesterday, just banging against the walls," he said.

"We're lucky to be in a geothermal area, so the house is drying.

Hanson said the bathroom bore the brunt of the damage.

"At its peak, the water was about 60cm high. That was the hardest to clear out, I was using a bucket and just tipping it down the toilet...

"The cabinet is absolutely dead, my partner's makeup was underneath it and that's been damaged. Otherwise it wasn't too bad. Just a lot of washing to do today."

Hanson said there had been a lot of 4WDs drives out, trying to drive quickly through the water, without thinking about the impact on the neighbouring houses.

Next door, a New Zealand Home Loans a spokeswoman said: "The worst thing was people just kept driving past."

"They chose to. There was no need to come down here and as they did waves were just rushing in."

Flooding on Pioneer Rd on Sunday. Photo / Ben Fraser
Flooding on Pioneer Rd on Sunday. Photo / Ben Fraser

RotoVegas Motel manager Shelley Hobson-Powell was offering free rooms for those who needed them.

She said the motel had space for up to 22 people for two nights in RotoVegas House, as well as a few family units until Thursday.

"At the moment it's low occupancy, it's off-peak, and if we've got empty rooms, we may as well help people."

Four Square Ngongotaha posted on Facebook that it had put out a pallet of bottled water, and some 10L boxes of water, to give away free to those affected by the flood.

Trinity Church on Hall Rd in Ngongotaha was serving hot soup, coffee and tea, and offering blankets.

Ngongotaha Primary School and Tawera Bilingual School were closed today, affecting 432 students.

Te Kohanga Reo o Te Arika and Waihi Kindergarten were also closed, affecting up to 60 children.

In a statement released today, Civil Defence Minister Kris Faafoi said it would be tough for some residents to see the damage in full daylight.

Debris washed up in Ngongotaha. Photo / Stephen Parker
Debris washed up in Ngongotaha. Photo / Stephen Parker

"My thoughts are with all of those impacted. Yesterday was difficult for many and today could be more challenging as we better understand the impacts on people's property.

"I'd ask that everyone continues to take care – check on your neighbours and any whanau that you have not heard from. Don't travel unless local conditions are safe – and never drive through floodwaters."

Faafoi hoped to meet local emergency services and contractors involved in the clean-up and restorations.

This morning MetService lead meteorologist Mark Todd said the heavy rain was over for the Bay of Plenty.

"There are still some showers around, but these will be nothing like what happened during the weekend."

Western Rd on Sunday. Photo / Ben Fraser
Western Rd on Sunday. Photo / Ben Fraser

During the 12 hours to 4am today, parts of Bay of Plenty recorded 25mm-30mm of rain.

The heaviest rain fell yesterday morning; 81mm was recorded at Rotorua Airport between 7am and 11am.

The National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA) said Rotorua had its wettest hour since records began 54 years ago, when 51.8mm of rain fell from 10am-11am yesterday.