"There are no words. It is devastating when you have to stand in the middle of the highway and tell your wife that your house is destroyed."
For Whangaehu resident Mike McDonnell, his wife Raywne and their children, memories of the February 2004 remain as vivid as they were 10 years ago. Sunday marks a decade since the rainstorm and subsequent flood catastrophe.
Mr McDonnell has lived in the small Rangitikei township for 50 years, and in his house opposite the Whangaehu Garage for 30 years.
But nothing could prepare him or his family for the events of February 16, 2004, when their house - and the entire Whangaehu township - was swamped by the swollen Whangaehu River.
Mr McDonnell said it had been raining heavily all weekend, but there had been no warning.
Mike McDonnell shows the flood level in his living room.
Flood waters entered the village as the river began to breach its banks about 8am on February 16. By 9am water was ankle-deep on the McDonnell property, and it was up to the patio by noon.
At the flood's peak, that afternoon, the water was more than 1.5m deep through the house. "I just stood there and watched it come up. There was nothing I could do."
Mrs McDonnell and her daughter had gone into Wanganui while Mr McDonnell helped resident evacuate.
He said among those rescued was a 90-year-old man who was brought from the end of Ruatangata Rd on a four-wheel-drive vehicle.
Mr McDonnell spent Monday night at the Turakina Railway Tavern and at 8am when his wife was bought back to Whangaehu with other evacuated residents, he had to tell her the house was very, very bad.
"It might be we have to walk away from it," Mr McDonnell told the Wanganui Chronicle at the time.
However, they decided to stay. It took a year for the house to dry out and be repaired - made more difficult because the McDonnells had no insurance - during which time they lived with family in Wanganui.
Since 2004 another two major floods have brought water into the house - one in 2006 and one in October 2013.
Fortunately, insurance helped with repairs.
Only a handful of residents living in Whangaehu in early 2004 remain in the township.
Mr McDonnell knows flooding is an ever-present danger, but he can't go anywhere because of his mortgage.
"This place is worth more to us in our possession than if we sold it. We couldn't buy a dog-box in town with what we'd get if we sold the house."
Mr McDonnell said his family is now constantly prepared for an emergency.
"If you see me with my bags packed, start running. It's not because my wife has thrown me out."
In tomorrow's Chronicle we remember the catastrophic flood of February 2004 and talk to people who lived through them.
Photo Gallery of the 2004 floods - Image 1 of 13: A TRAGEDY: Trapped in a flat field in fast-flowing floodwaters, these sheep on a Ruatangata Rd farm had little chance of survival. Image 2 of 13: PHOTO BY TRACEY GRANT This year's storm damage to the Waitotara hills resembles the carnage created by Cyclone Bola on the East Coast in 1988 NAD 1may04 - Storm damage to the Waitotara hills resembles the carnage created by Cyclone Bola on the East Coast in 1988. Image 3 of 13: WHAT AN ASS: Donkey's looked for high ground near the Whangaehu pub yesterday morning. These donkeys and a llama were rescued from the flood waters by local residents. Image 4 of 13: Waitotara Store surrounded by flood waters. 16 February 2004 Wanganui Chronicle Photograph by Kirsty Head Image 5 of 13: REUNITED: Whangaehu farm worker Mike McDonnell , his wife Raywne (centre) and daughter Tania, whose home and processions were ruined when the Whangaehu River raced through the township yesterday. Image 6 of 13: JOURNEY HOME: A Royal New Zealand Air Force Iroquois with returning Whangaehu residents, evacuated from the area on Monday, prepares to land near the Whangaehu River Bridge early yesterday morning. Image 7 of 13: EMERGENCY IN WAITOTARA: Harvey Wilson found himself swimming his horses away from the flood danger at Waitotara but is pictured here moving equipment in a more conventional manner. Image 8 of 13: DEVASTATION: A rural bridge on the outskirts of Marton succumbed to the force of the storm and ensuring flood, denying access to residents and emergency crews to other hard-hit properties and structures. Image 9 of 13: LUCKY TO ESCAPE RAGING FLOOD WATERS: Unlike sheep, cattle often have the ability to swim to safety on higher and drier ground. Image 10 of 13: LUCKY TO ESCAPE RAGING FLOOD WATERS: Alistair and Bo Polson's Mangamahu home has survived floods for over 100 years, but succumbed to Sunday's devastating event. NZH 17mar04 - THE END : A home near Hunterville withstood floods for 100 years before it gave up last month Image 11 of 13: HEARTS SANK WHEN THE REACHED HOME: The mudslide pummelled furniture through Rachel Stewart and Rosemary Miller's bedroom window. Image 12 of 13: LUCKY TO ESCAPE RAGING FLOOD WATERS: Alistair Polson's ute sat adandoned as the family fled the rising waters. Image 13 of 13: UNHOLY MESS: Father Dominic Heslin, plucking one of the bibles fromt he mud coated floor of Whangaehu's St Andrew's Chruch, is facing a double dose of cleaning and restoration after both the church and his back at Scotts Ferry were stuck by the once in a lifetime flood.
Image 1 of 13: A TRAGEDY: Trapped in a flat field in fast-flowing floodwaters, these sheep on a Ruatangata Rd farm had little chance of survival.