The Hawke’s Bay Herald-Tribune, Monday, December 29, 1980 3
Engineer sails away from flood
Hawke’s Bay Catchment Board engineer Mr Peter Simons has plenty of water to contend with –
but it is in no way connected with the disastrous flooding in his catchment area.
Mr Simons is skippering his 30-foot keeler through drizzle and choppy seas somewhere off the East Cape, probably oblivious of yesterday morning’s emergency at Twyford.
Mr Simons left Napier on Wednesday but, when about 12 miles into Hawke’s Bay, rough seas and deteriorating weather forced his return. He regained port on Christmas evening.
Yesterday, about 5am, he took his keeler Elysium, accompanied by the keeler Rangimanu, out into the bay again, bound for Whitianga.
Two hours later the fresh in the Ngaruroro turned into flood and at 8am the stopbank at Twyford had been breached, causing a full alert of catchment board engineering and other technical staff.
It is possible that Mr Simons might be unaware of the Hawke’s Bay flooding until he makes port at Whitianga – or unless he picks up a news broadcast.
Disaster for crop farmers
Rain-battered crops on the Heretaunga Plains have sustained disastrous losses.
Ripening crops of peaches and nectarines are splitting, substantial areas of vegetable crops are ruined and losses in berry-fruit crops are put at up to $7000 a hectare.
“Unfortunately we couldn’t have had a worse situation than we have at the moment,” said berry-fruit grower Mr Graham Velvin, Oak Rd, Twyford.
“Ripe boysenberries that haven’t been picked because of the weather are rotting which is going to be prevalent. In weather like this morning, without sunshine and wind, even the green fruit is rotting.”
He estimated that about 50 per cent of the remaining boysenberries would be ruined. About one-third of the crop had been picked.
“This should be a lesson for would-be berryfruit growers. It’s not all beer and skittles, Mr Velvin said.
“We are facing an element which we cannot control, which is the hardest thing to do in business,” he said.
One newcomer to berryfruit growing, Mr Stephen Brockett, Bridge Pa, estimated that 80 per cent of his boysenberry crop, without the benefit of mature shelter trees, was lost.
Before Christmas the crop was looking good and coming to its peak. Now he has lost $6000 to $7000 worth of berries, he said.
Mr Ian Tuston, Hastings, said he was fortunate to have a mechanical harvester to pick good crops of blackberries and raspberries.
The machine was able to work until Saturday night and harvest at the equivalent rate of 50 pickers.
“Nothing can get on this land now. It even pulls your gumboots off,” he said.
Vegetable growers with crops flooded by rivers or surface water are also expected to suffer losses.
Losses in tomato crops in Hastings and Gisborne would be substantial, said the managing director of J. Wattie Canneries Limited, Mr Ray Wattie.
He said the full extent of the losses was not yet known but was being assessed by field staff today.
Losses in green beans and peas would be smaller, he said.
Watties’ agricultural manager, Mr Stuart Thomas, said waterlogged paddocks made harvesting of peas impossible, and pea processing had been stopped at the Hastings factory.
Unilever was experiencing similar problems, although pea harvesting was proceeding in Central Hawke’s Bay, said agricultural manager Mr Clarrie Napier.
The Hastings factory had previously been forced to stop processing peas when the harvesters had been unable to work.
He predicted crop losses in carrots and sweet peppers, in addition to the other crops.
Strawberry growers, in contrast, have been fortunate.
“Our losses are virtually nothing,” said Mr Neil Manning, Ormond Rd.
His pickers, whom he praised, had worked through the rain and harvested ripening fruit which, since Christmas, went to processing factories.
He had, however, lost out on fresh market sales.
“There is no noticeable deterioration in the fruit because of the rain, but its shelf life is shortened,” he said.
Rains have damaged early crops of nectarines and dessert peaches, but most growers have been fortunate.
Mr Norman Hope, Twyford, said early crops of nectarines were not major crops.
“Our full force of nectarines comes in two or three weeks. The rain shouldn’t affect them at all.”
He said nectarines that were ripening were also swelling and splitting, which allowed brown rot to set in.
One grower of peaches said most growers were fortunate to have pickers taking fruit off trees before it became too damaged.
Another grower said apricots had split badly and splits were appearing in the early peach varieties of Dixie Red and Red Haven.
Rain triggers alarm – twice
Heavy rain triggered the fire alarm at the Pacific freezing works twice at the weekend.
Firemen were called to the works at 1.53pm on Saturday and at 7am on Sunday.
A brigade spokesman said water had got into the alarm system and set it off.
River found ‘weak spot’
The breaching of the Ngaruroro River stopbank near Twyford yesterday was the result of an inherent weakness in the structure, according to the Hawke’s Bay Catchment Board’s deputy chief engineer, Mr David Hamilton.
Routine inspections had failed to detect this weakness, he said.
The river had not gone over the top of the stopbank, but the swollen waters had found a way through the weak spot.
The stopbank was breached about 8am and within minutes it was 20 metres across. An hour later it was 60 metres wide and by 11.30am it had increased to 120 metres.
After an aerial inspection of the board’s region with other engineers Mr Hamilton said all the Hawke’s Bay rivers had been swollen by the prolonged rain which had fallen since Christmas Day.
The Ngaruroro had risen to its highest level since the 1973 June flood.
During the 24 hours up to 9am on Saturday an average of 150 millimetres of rain had fallen in the headwaters of the catchments.
Larger rainfalls if between 150 to 160mm were recorded in the subsequent 24 hours up to 9am yesterday.
The highest rainfall was recorded at Kaweka Forest where 185mm (7½ inches) fell during the 24 hours up to 9am yesterday, said Mr Hamilton.
The resultant flooding on the Heretaunga Plains could be traced to the heavy bursts of rain which fell in the catchments between 6pm and 10pm on Saturday night.
The board installed flood-warning stations on the Tutaekiri and Ngaruroro Rivers two years ago and with these board staff monitored the rising rivers throughout Saturday night.
The Tutaekuri peaked at 2.3 metres above its normal level at 3am yesterday, but the Ngaruroro peaked at 3.5 metres above normal at the Whanawhana [Whana Whana] warning stations at 5am.
Downriver at the Ohiti station a reading of three metres above normal was recorded, but by 00am the river had fallen half a metre.
The Waipawa River also breached its stopbank about eight kilometres upstream from the town. Mr Hamilton said that, from the air, it seemed the river had found a weakness, similar to Twyford’s, and cut a 50-metre gap in the northern bank.
Paddocks were flooded and outbuildings surrounded by water.
The joint river mouth for the Ngaruroro and Tutaekuri Rivers at Waitangi ponded into a huge lake with water almost reaching the deck of the road bridges at the flood’s peak.
While the Tukituki River topped its berm in many places it did not pose any danger, said Mr Hamilton. The board had advised farmers before Christmas to shift stock from the low lying areas near the Tukituki.
He said board staff had worked throughout Saturday night checking levels and clearing debris and weeds from drains on the seaward side of the Heretaunga Plains.
Campers stay on – in the mud
Holidaymakers in Napier are generally tolerating the wet weather and hoping predictions for an improvement will come to fruition.
At Kennedy Park motor camp on Saturday night the heavy rain was “the final straw” for some camp sites, already sodden with rain over Christmas.
Manager, Mr Gordon Beveridge said about 20 of the camp’s 250 sites were either flooded or churned to mud.
Until Saturday the camp situation had been reasonable, but the downpour on Saturday evening “put the finishing touches to it,” he said.
A few campers left but the majority stayed on.
The camp has about 1000 people in it and Mr Beveridge said the number was being limited until the affected camp sites dried out.
At Riverside motor camp, Taradale, there were no real problems, with campers generally handling the wet weather well. Numbers there are also being limited for a few days until the ground dries out.
The Westshore motor camp had no problems, being on a free-draining area.
However, at the Esk River holiday camp staff kept a close watch on the river as high tides approached during the wet period.
But the river level dropped about half a metre soon after each high tide, proprietor Mr F. Sowden said.
Apart from two groups of tenters who left with wet gear, everybody was in high spirits, he said.
The heavy rain on Saturday night caused some surface flooding on several Napier streets, but by late evening most had cleared as the rain eased.
Families flee ‘wall of water’
Rampaging floodwaters smashed a 120-metre gap through a stopbank on the Ngaruroro River near Twyford yesterday forcing a dozen families to flee their homes.
Jet boats and heavy machines were used to rescue some of the families and stock as water inundated 1000 hectares of rich cropping, orchard and farming land on the Heretaunga Plains.
The Ngaruroro burst out of its banks without warning about 8am sending a wall of water tumbling across the flat farmlands to the no-exit end of Twyford Rd.
Farmers had little time to move stock and several families were forced to flee their homes in the clothing they were wearing at the time.
About 15 homes in the area were surrounded by water to varying depths. Some families, with their floorboards still above water, decided to stick it out – but others had no option with the silt-laden waters halfway up the walls.
Most of the people who were forced out of their homes assembled at the Hawke’s Bay County Council’s depot in Omahu Rd and from there made their own arrangements for alternative accommodation.
Farmers worked frantically throughout the morning shifting stock to higher ground and some was moved out by trucks.
But for others there was not time and Mr Rory Smith just barely escaped from his property, unable to do anything for 500 ewes which disappeared under the floodwaters.
Others waded waist-deep through paddocks physically manhandling near-drowned sheep to higher ground.
The muddy, brown water also devastated berry crops, stone-fruit trees, pea, bean and tomato crops.
Farmers estimated early yesterday that at least 750 sheep were lost in the flood, but most of the cattle in the area were saved and put on to higher ground.
The flood caused damage to houses, sheds, cars, farm machinery and fences.
Cars, with water up to the tops of their bonnets were left where they had been parked for the night. One, in which the owners had tried to flee the flood, had stalled in the middle of Twyford Rd.
The occupants were rescued by a truck.
Farmers looking out at the fence-level floodwaters said it would take a major clean-up to get their properties back into shape.
Two jet boats were used by farmers to locate and evacuate stock stranded by the flood waters.
An orchardist said he had lost his nectarine crop.
“They were the size of tennis balls and I had been waiting for the last three days to pick them. Now they will split and won’t be any good,” he said.
“You see this kind of thing on television and read about it in the news, but you never think it is going to happen to you. I suppose all you can do is just pick up threads,” he said.
One elderly farmer sat shivering in the back of a Land-Rover.
“I was up to my chest in floodwater trying to save cattle.
“But I saved them,” he added proudly.
A youth whose father owns a stone fruit farm in Twyford Rd said he was first made aware of the flood when his mother called out about 8am.
“I saw the water rushing across the paddocks across the road from us. It was in a big brown wave.
“I went back to our house and in no time at all we were in three feet of water,” he said.
Worst hit farms were those of Mr Rory N. Smith and Mr B. J. Rohleder, in Twyford Rd.
“I visited the stopbank last night after we had had so much rain, and it didn’t look too good then,” said Mr Smith.
“To me it looked as though fallen logs and silt had built up against the trees inside the stopbank and this formed its own stopbank.
“The pressure of this built up and when it broke, it appeared that the force of the water was too great for the stopbank and it burst through.
“The hole in the stopbank was small at first, but it grew as the watyer rushed through it,” said Mr Smith.
The floodwater raced around the wall of the stopbank and on to the paddocks of Mr Smith and Mr Rohleder before spreading to adjoining properties.
Mr Rohleder punched a hole in the roof of his house in case it was needed as a means of escape.
Hawke’s Bay County Council trucks evacuated flood victims from houses in the path of the water.
One of the county’s truck drivers, returning to the scene after taking people to the county council’s offices in Omahu Rd, said one of the evacuees was from Iceland.
The water level dropped during the afternoon and farmers returned to their properties to move water-logged cars and check on family pets.
A concrete bridge midway down Twyford Rd, which had withstood the early force of the flood, collapsed just after midday and restricted movement past that point.
Mr C. C. Watson’s property had a stream of flood water running beside the house just above foundation level and down into a stonefruit orchard.
Mr G. G. Ede’s house was surrounded by floodwater and the top of the wooden fenceline on the boundary of the house appeared above the water level during the afternoon.
Mr K. E. McAuley’s property was also affected by the flood with water at its peak being a metre deep in the house.
The Belmont Vineyards in Nicholls Rd, off Evans Rd, was devastated by the flood with vines having been ripped from their supports earlier in the day.
A boat was used to investigate all properties to make sure that those who remained on their farms were safe.
Pole falls on house
A wooden power pole collapsed and fell on to a house in Tanner St, Havelock North, on Saturday afternoon.
Mr David Smith, who was working in his garage at 2 Tanner St heard a loud explosion and saw a flash of light as the pole fell.
It crashed on to a clothesline of wet washing and struck the guttering of his house causing minor damage.
It appeared that the clay ground at the base of the pole had been weakened by the steady rain of the past few days.
Grower loses the lot
The Ngaruroro River swept away a berryfruit grower’s income yesterday morning when it burst its banks a few hundred metres upstream from Twyford Rd
Today a foot of silt covered everything on Mr David Brooker’s property and his raspberry, loganberry and boysenberry crops appeared ruined.
“The silt is in my cars, my sheds and my house,” he said while cleaning up after a 1.3 metre (four foot) wall of water had suddenly rushed through, around 8am yesterday.
Mr Brooker, his wife and five children, aged from one to 13 years, were evacuated by a neighbour, Mr Frank Curd, in his Land-Rover.
They left in what they stood up in.
“We didn’t have time to take anything,” said Mr Brooker.
The family spent last night with friends and would do the same tonight.
Today their home was isolated after bridges in Twyford Rd were swept away.
“We can walk to it over a plank,” he said.
The floodwaters also swept away anything that was not tied down, he said.
Patrol helps victims, guards against looting
Hastings police formed an emergency patrol on Saturday to evacuate flood victims and prevent looting.
Several men were called off holiday to assist the nine-man patrol.
A police spokesman said several elderly people in Ruahapia Rd, Hastings, were reluctant to leave their homes, threatened by rising flood water.
Patrols moved around the whole flood area to prevent any evacuated homes being broken into.
There have been no reports of evacuated homes or properties being entered.
The patrols will continue until the areas affected are back to normal.
Police worked with Ministry of Transport and Catchment Board staff to block off flooded roads and help people affected by the torrential rain.
The spokesman said they did not strike any major problems and the operation went smoothly.
Photo captions –
Rain over Christmas has meant a rather miserable time for camping holiday makers. However, those who decided to stay on and await some finer weather, managed to find ways of entertaining themselves. From left, Janine Cousens, 15, Havelock North, Richard Ballach, 16, Hastings, Denise Rayner, 15, Carterton, Vaughan Ellis, 15, Ruakaka, Bridget Parker, 15, Hastings, and Kim Garvey, 15, Havelock North, all decided that a poker game was the best way of forgetting the rain. The teenagers were staying at the Windsor Park camping ground, Hastings.
Diane Walen and Rex Evans, Wellington, nearly turned round and went home again after arriving to heavy rain in Hastings on Saturday. However, the couple decided to brave it and hope for an improvement. They are shown pitching their tent at the Windsor Park camping ground.