The Joy Club member Kathy Feest reports on the national-newsworthy flooding she recently witnessed in Auckland, highlighting issues some UK news channels may have failed to notice…
You can read the previous instalment of Kathy’s NZ adventures here…
This is not the sort of New Zealand summer we remember! Our Kiwi friends who have lived here for years have never seen anything like it.
The rain has been intermittent for days but on Friday between about six and ten in the evening the rain that had been falling most of the day changed to an intense flow that overwhelmed drains, gutters and people! In those four hours three months of rain arrived!
The home we are living in had never before had water inside. By about 9:00pm we were afraid that was no longer going to be the case. What looked like a river flowed down our driveway and pooled by the front door.
We found some old sheets and a few thick outdoor rugs and barricaded the door, hoping that it wouldn’t breach the threshold. We moved all the shoes and other hallway bits upstairs. A tiny dribble popped over the door but our efforts worked. The drains on the road leading to our property simply couldn’t cope fast enough with the staggering amount of water. Just when we thought the wooden floors in the hall were about to become sodden, suddenly the rain eased and the drains opened. As if by magic, the water receded.
We were luckier than many. Our next-door neighbour’s garage was filled with water and friends around us had two feet and more of water in their garages, basements and too many unfortunate people had water rush into their homes. Cars were submerged and rendered useless, and some people didn’t have insurance. Irreplaceable objects were often the innocent victim of the water’s intensity. The stories of how people helped each other, wading in to the knee high water, were heartening.
What seems to be one of the biggest problems here is what are known as “slips”. Many houses have been built on the top of or underneath cliffs and, when the earth becomes saturated, the land “slips” causing massive mudslides – taking away any homes or roads in its way. Trees “slip” across roads, and tumble down ravines when their roots can no longer hold on. Properties built on top of cliffs have great views of the sea, but without proper drainage systems, are vulnerable.
No one in the meteorological office predicted the sheer intensity of this storm. Elton John was meant to be giving an outdoor concert on the Friday night. It soon became clear that wasn’t going to be possible. When concert goers set out from their homes, no one could have predicted the water would become devastating so quickly. The concert was cancelled as the carparks and venue became flooded. Over 11,000 people had already arrived. There was wet chaos!
The next morning the rain had eased, and we drove along the road by the beach to a favourite cafe for breakfast. The place and many others en route were packed. Everyone asked each other how they fared, if they had water inside their homes, if their properties were safe and if they managed to escape mother nature’s excess.
It’s strange being in an inner city where an emergency has been declared, yet one feels safe. The knowledge that four people died because of the rains is still sobering.
When we finished our breakfast we walked along the beach in the pouring rain.
This was normal rain, not the intensity of the night before. By the time we arrived home the rain had ended and our deck was flooded with sunshine. It was impossible to walk on it in bare feet! The rain may have arrived but the warm summer heat had never left us.
Then the emails started arriving from our family and friends in the UK. They were worried about us, wondering if we were coping, because the images they saw from the BBC were quite frightening.
Somehow the Beeb didn’t reflect, or fully understand the real issues that were happening here. They didn’t show the mud slipping into houses or discuss the trees that landed across roads making them impassable.
They focused instead on cars mangled up and on lots of water which is a feature anyway in Auckland.
My husband was quite amused when he saw our house in a video on the BBC. It looked like it was surrounded by water, but then it always is! None of the water in the video was flood water! They chose a very British version of flooding to talk about. Unlike floods in the UK, here in Auckland, there are no rivers bursting their banks, or tributaries pouring through the city. It was all surface water. Ultimately, they missed the real tragedy. Why was this unusual event happening?
It feels like Mother Nature is shaking her fist at us. It won’t stop us from returning to New Zealand as it is a place that we love and have many friends here. But after our extraordinary hot summer at home last year, and now all this unusual rain in a usually glorious Kiwi summer, surely we all must press on doing what we can to stop the climate change that is definitely upon us?
The rain has abated for now and the sun is back. For how long we must wonder? More rain is indeed forecast for the next few days! I decided when life becomes damp and unpredictable it’s time to bake, share and eat cookies! (yummy ginger cookies – recipe on request).
Kathy Feest has a wealth of experience with writing, leadership and personal development mentoring. Kathy fulfilled her dream at the age of 41 and earned her first University degree; she went on to complete a PhD in Medical Education. She regularly runs self-development workshops at The Joy Club so keep your eyes on our events calendar for one of her next live sessions.