Weathering the storms

by Helen Martin

Recent local crimes include burglaries at Parakai Four Square and Helensville Hospice shop. A week or so after the 10 April storm a post from Helensville Volunteer Fire Brigade on our community Facebook page read “Unfortunately we have once again had equipment stolen off our rescue tender. Following the multitude of storm callouts our cahainsaw, chaps, safety helmet and fuel have gone missing. Previously we had our Milwaukee toolkit stolen whilst at a community event. That’s over $5000 of equipment we use for our community gone. If anyone has any information, please contact the Helensville Police.” Then there was this email from Vector, after the first big storm. “We have been made aware that a third party has unlawfully accessed the personal information of a number of Vector customers. This breach will have affected some of the customers who used the Vector Outage App to report an outage. We wanted to inform you that, as you have provided information via the Outage App, your data may potentially be included. We understand this may be upsetting for you and we are sorry for this. We are continuing to investigate the matter, and if and when we can confirm if your data has been compromised we will contact you to let you know.”
Catastrophic events bring out the worst in some people (looting after the Christchurch earthquake, for example), but they bring out the best too. The big storm that brought down multiple large trees and left us without power for several days, while not catastrophic, was a big event in our lives. On the upside, it saw neighbours helping each other with offers of showers, meals, a bed for the night and even, in our case at least, the loan of a generator, which we gratefully accepted. Parakai Four Square, rather than let their melting ice-cream go to waste, gave it all away, Forge Fitness, usually open only to members, offered hot showers and phone charging, Helensville Christian Life Centre provided free meals and Vector donated food.

Martyn and Avon clearing up after the storm uprooted a row of 13 pine trees.

Jeering from outside Auckland was perhaps inevitable. In the NZ Herald (22 April) Kate Stewart advised Aucklanders complaining about being without power to “Grow a pair and suck it up” but the rest of us know we’re perfectly entitled to vent. It’s the downstream effects of damage and loss of power that cause the stress. Stories I was told range from the man preparing for a colonoscopy with no access to a flushing toilet, to the nervousness of the asthmatic who relies on power to get her breathing again if she has an attack, to the Helensville people who made the national News when their fuse box exploded into flames when the power went back on. A friend looked out the window during the storm and saw a train stopped in front of a pine tree lying across the railway track. He and a few neighbours spent the next couple of hours chain sawing and chopping up the tree in a howling gale, during which time another tree fell on him and cut his hand.
Our household thought six days without power was tough, but what about the Garfield Rd family who were without power from 10 -21 April? “Part of our tree came down in the storm and knocked the power pole to the ground. Vector’s website deemed this an emergency, but I had to ring them every day to find out what was going on as their App didn’t work and the website wasn’t accurate. Every time I phoned I got a different story. They did come and put a new power pole up a week after the storm, but they didn’t put the power line up, so we were still without power. It was extremely frustrating and stressful. I ended up contacting my local councillor on the Friday morning who I believe tried to help. We got power finally that afternoon.”
Thanks to the storm our new heat pump is on the fritz, and insurance won’t pay, we’ve been told, because the storm was ‘an act of God.’ Well, thanks for that. Acts of God aside, we’ll be better prepared next time. So far, we’ve bought more torches, more buckets and a camping stove. Looks like we might need them. It’s blowing a gale again and our neighbour’s power is out.

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