Arrangements are in place to get people stranded in Mangawhai back home, after bad weather flooded roads and caused slips.
Access between Auckland and Northland was restored on Saturday morning, after the regions were cut off from each other when Mangawhai and Kaiwaka – just north of the Auckland border – were hit by “intense” downpours on Friday evening, causing surface flooding and slips.
Heidi and Ian Baker were stranded in Hakaru near Mangawhai after they answered a call for help from friends.
They left their house in Mangawhai Heads on Friday afternoon, when the rain started battering the region, and only returned early on Saturday.
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Ian said they hurried over to help their friends when the rain starting entering their house
“There were already some slips on the road and trees down on the side,” he said
As the heavy rain intensified, the couple realised they would not be able to make it home.
All the roads were blocked and two bridges flooded in Hakaru, so they decided to sleep at their friends’ place.
“We had no idea that it was going to go for so long and be so hard. There was no way to get home,” Ian said.
On Saturday they got up at 6am and with the first light made their way home.
“Cars in the middle of the road had been abandoned and then we got stuck in the mud on a bridge,” Heidi said.
Thanks to the gardening tools they had in the truck, the Bakers dug a way out of the mud and drove home.
However, they said lots of people had been stranded away from each other in Mangawhai.
Carol Jennifer Clarke, who has lived in Mangawhai for 10 years, said she’d never seen flash-floods like the ones that hit the area over the past couple of days.
She said she had water inside her house, the driveway was flooded and her son was stuck at a school 40 minutes away.
On Friday afternoon, Clarke was told by the Otematea High School near Mangaturoto that the road leading there had flooded.
She said it was scary, but “luckily his friend’s mum insisted that he stayed with them overnight”.
“It was the worst because we were scared of being isolated, because every road coming in and out of Mangawahi has flooded,” Clarke said.
Kaipara District Council mayor Craig Jepson believed the floodwaters had mostly receded on Saturday afternoon – “just as quickly as they rose”.
“But that did not mean individual homes might not still be inundated for days to come.”
There had been 400 people in evacuation centres overnight, Craig estimated.
He credited the larger community and district council staff for sheltering people overnight.
“Our people were showing up with bedding and pillows,” he said.
“I’ve got friends that had 11 people staying in their houses [last night]. They didn’t know one of them personally, but they were putting people up.
“By Saturday afternoon, people in evacuation centres had been able to leave – after being given maps and directions to help them navigate “a spaghetti of injured roads”.
Craig advised people to drive carefully – if they had to drive at all – and “be mindful of slips” on roads.
There are 40 roads across Auckland that have full closures in place. While some of these closures are expected to only last for the next few days, others will take months to repair. There are also five roads where one lane is closed.
State Highway 1 (SH1) is now open, however motorists are asked to drive with caution as a slip near Topuni is cleared. The highway remains closed between Brynderwyn and Waipu, with detours available on the Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency journey planning tool.
“Although the road is open, there will be major delays as the crew work on the road. Please avoid travelling on the road if possible and rethink your travel plans,” Waka Kotahi said in a statement.
“If you do need to travel, please drive to the conditions, obey the temporary speed limits and be patient with the crews on the road and other drivers.”
A section of SH1 between Brynderwyn and Waipu and Kaiwaka-Mangawhai Rd remain closed.
Mangawhai Rd is open only to travellers who need to leave the area. They will be escorted through to the Kaipara-Auckland boundary to rejoin SH1 at Te Hana, where they will be able to head north or south, according to Auckland Emergency Management.
Mangawhai residents unable to return home may do the reverse – join Mangawhai Rd from Te Hana.
“Several other roads around the Mangawhai area are available for essential travel by locals in 4WD vehicles only.
“Those from outside the region are encouraged to travel to Northland only if essential. Any unnecessary travel will delay recovery efforts.”
In a statement, Auckland Emergency Management said parts of Auckland experienced more than 150mm of rain in six hours on Friday.
A rain gauge near Mangawhai reported 349mm of rain in the 12 hours to 8pm, resulting in extensive flooding and evacuations.
Fire and Emergency NZ shift manager Josh Pennefather said firefighters responded to 112 weather related calls in lower Northland area overnight. The majority of the calls outs were before midnight.
There were 12 incidents where people needed rescuing from flood water, most of whom were in their vehicles. This included a group of people driving in Dairy Flat, who had to be rescued from their cars by boats .
Metservice meteorologist Alex Holden said Auckland and Northland were due a brief reprieve from the rain until Monday, when another rain band arrived from the north.
It’s not clear yet how heavy this rain will be. There are no weather warnings in place for Auckland and Northland as of Saturday afternoon.
Mayor Wayne Brown urged Aucklanders to stay vigilant and to take care on the roads.
“I am relieved that we have weathered another storm with no serious harm to Aucklanders. Thank you to those who followed the guidance of emergency services by sheltering at home or evacuating to a safer place last night.”
“It’s been great to see our local communities rally once again to get through another severe weather event. Let’s hope there are clear skies are ahead.”
Speaking from Muriwai on Saturday, Prime Minister Chris Hipkins said everyone needed to be prepared for heavy weather, including plans for pets, children and elderly or disabled family members.
“Make sure you have your grab and go kit ready. Weather can be notoriously unpredictable and you don’t know with any certainty where is going to be the most affected when a severe weather event hits.”
Hipkins thanked first responders and those who made the effort to help their neighbours.