Gabrielle is Here

Flooding in Napier

Today is Sunday February 12th, 2023. Kia ora!

This morning I went to church. The theme was about choice, about choosing life, and about how a Christian person should live, letting go of their anger, and any grudges, and not berating others for not abiding by the rules.  This morning I listened to a Rest is History podcast about the first, and perhaps the bloodiest crusade, the Albigensian, and it was pretty horrific. This crusade seemed to be about following rules: which rules? whose rules? The minister touched on the Crusades during his sermon. I also read in the Sunday Star Times about a far-right group who claim men have been emasculated, and some of the very scary beliefs such people hold. 

From when I awoke, around 6:30 am, I have been looking at the news to establish the path and effects of Cyclone Gabrielle. Already it has hit the Northland area, and some places are without power. It’s hard to believe there is such bad weather up north, while it is still warm if overcast here. It’s not raining here. It’s definitely cooler than it has been; I did put on hose today, for the first time in weeks, but then was happy to take them off after lunch.

There are now heavy rain warnings for the Gisborne area, east of Taupo, and Hawkes Bay. This morning we had an email from Hōhepa saying they’re monitoring the situation and keeping in touch with Civil Defence.  I am so relieved that my daughter has moved to a house away from the beautiful but vulnerable Clive site, from whence it is much easier to evacuate a group of fairly high-functioning adults who aren’t highly medicated.

This time around the Auckland area is far better organised, I think. Prime Minister Hipkins addressed the nation from Auckland this morning. He has certainly grown into this role, with an ultra-smooth handover; he’s simply picked up the baton from former Prime Minister Ardern, and carried on. Chris Luxon, leader of the National Party, still seems flummoxed and unsure how to move forward or attack Labour. He was heckled by conspiracy theorists at what should have been a packed meeting of the party faithful in Rangiora; he has had to cancel a speech he was going to make today in Auckland, his State of the Nation speech.  Kiwis are probably far more concerned about surviving whatever the cyclone may throw at them, surviving for several days without power, and whether they’ll ever be able to return to their beautiful clifftop properties, now sadly red-stickered after the heavy rain of two weeks ago. That would be the rich ones, of course; and they can’t go to their second homes in the Coromandel, either, since that’s likely to be in the path of the cyclone.  Everyone is advised to not go anywhere they don’t have to.

Afterwards I bussed home, and then JD and I had lunch at Kaizen Café, always a favourite place of mine. Although it was quite windy and overcast in Khandallah, where I went to church, it was very warm in Porirua, although still overcast.  I ordered a serving of rhubarb shortcake to take home, and we shared a nice cold drink – kombucha flavoured with lemon and ginger. It was very refreshing, and contained more sodium (salt) than sugar! 

In the evening we started to watch the film Lucky on Te Whakaata Māori, but when the new season of Bloodlands started on television one, we switched to watching that. As with many British detective plots, I’m finding this one very complicated.

At the end of the day, I note that Wellington is now included in the weather warnings issued for Cyclone Gabrielle, with strong winds and rain expected from Monday evening.

It’s now Monday February 13th.

I had an unwelcome call this morning from Napier. My daughter has tested positive for Covid 19 again, although she has no symptoms other than a raised temperature. I agree that she should go on Paxlovid again.  Meanwhile, there is another newsletter from Hōhepa, saying that their site at Clive has been evacuated; some families have taken their family member home. Hopefully the house where my daughter lives won’t have to be evacuated, as her having Covid 19 will be an added complication. But nevertheless, it’s much easier to evacuate her household with its remaining residents than a much bigger site like the Clive one.

The Cyclone is affecting the North Island (Te Ika–a- Māui), with many thousands of households suffering power cuts: at 1pm more than 12,000 Auckland households and businesses were thought to have lost power, mainly north of Orewa Beach. A state of emergency has been declared in central Whangarei, and the Gisborne-Tairāwhiti area is also badly affected. In Wellington, though, there is a strange calm. Of course, we’re used to strong winds and rain. This morning I went to my exercise class in Ngaio, wondering how many people would be there. Actually, there were lots there! It was good to do some stretching again. Afterwards, I walked to Ngaio Railway Station and caught the train to Johnsonville. By this time it was overcast (previously it had been sunny), and almost drizzling, with some threatening dark grey clouds. I did some shopping, and JD picked me up at the library. It’s a bit cooler now, but not unpleasant, although we’re getting dire reports of how bad things are in the top half of the North Island.

Amidst all this, the weekly Covid 19 report is out. It’s reported that there have been 8396 community cases of Covid-19 reported in New Zealand over the past week, and 32 further deaths. Of the new cases being reported, 3508 were reinfections. The numbers, released by the Ministry of Health, showed Covid-19 infections in the country were continuing to drop.

Of the deaths reported today, two were from Northland, seven were from the Auckland region, four were from Waikato, one was from Bay of Plenty, two were from Tairawhiti, one was from Hawke’s Bay, one was from Taranaki, three were from Wellington region, one was from Nelson Marlborough, four were from Canterbury and six were from the Southern DHB. Two were in their 20s, three were in their 40s, two were in their 50s, two were in their 60s, seven were in their 70s, 12 were in their 80s and four were aged over 90. Of these people, 12 were women and 20 were men.

There were also 171 people with Covid-19 in hospital as of midnight Sunday, including seven in ICU.

The seven-day rolling average of cases is now 1148, down from last week’s figure of 1263. So I guess we’re on the right track, even if many of us have cold-like symptoms.

In an eerie calm we await power cuts, very high wind gusts, and lots of rain. In the meantime, it is calm, and not raining.

It’s now Tuesday February 14, Valentine’s Day. I suspect people may be eating chocolate, if they have access to it, but other romantic activities are off the menu for now, for the North Island and the top of the South Island.

Things certainly livened up overnight. We watched the new on Television One at 10:40 pm last night, and before retiring to bed I took car to have a torch handy, and filled two thermos flasks with boiling water. I also took care to see that my mobile phone was charged.

This morning it’s windy here, and drizzly, although not raining heavily. But a State of Emergency was declared in Napier and Hastings at 4:30 am, I think – sometime during the night, it may have been earlier. I wait until 8 am to ring the house where my daughter lives. There’s no reply, so I assume they’ve evacuated. At around 9 am I ring the deputy house manager on her cell phone. She explains that she’s not at the house – she’s stuck in her home by flooding, as is the house manager. I then ring the cluster manager on her cell phone: the house where my daughter lives hasn’t been evacuated, but they have no power there. There’s lots of water in the garden. The house manager is on her way there. Soon she rings me, but I can’t hear her – reception is awful. But she texts me to say that our daughter is well, and they’re all safe, despite the power cut. Thank goodness it’s summer, unlike in Turkey and Syria where the dreadful earthquakes occurred.

Of course, while I’m concerned about my daughter, all the staff at the house where she lives have their own personal concerns, for their own and their loved ones’ safety.  JD knows a Hawkes Bay website giving the river levels, and they’re very scary – many bridges are unusable, the rivers have risen so high.

Meanwhile, a national state of emergency has been declared – for only the third time in New Zealand’s history! It was previously declared for the Christchurch earthquake, and for Covid 19. I watch the Breakfast show on TV OnDemand. The national state of emergency enables resources to be deployed more effectively as and where required. There are power cuts in New Plymouth (I didn’t think Taranaki would be badly affected). Many people are without power. It’s all pretty drastic, and we’re thankful here not to be badly affected.   

Now, at 10 am in Wellington, it’s raining more heavily.

I just zoomed into a bible study, figuring out that it probably wasn’t a good idea to go in person. Again, I find these discussions really difficult to zoom into. Furthermore, it was Matthew’s gospel talking about the Transfiguration, not the Exodus text I was expecting. 

After this, JD has learnt that many suburbs of Napier have now been told to evacuate. This includes the area where my daughter lives. Again, I pray for her, and for her companions and those taking care of her.

Today’s other big news is that Camilla, Queen Consort, has tested positive for Covid 19.  There is a photo of her in the Guardian, looking extremely lined and old.

It’s just after midday now, and the weather is pretty wild here. There are strong gusts of wind. It looks awful outside my bedroom window.

We watch a special One News update on television, at around 1 pm.  The reporter in Auckland reports from a location with the Harbour Bridge in the background (no fake news here, apparently!), and it looks much calmer than previously, although she said there was a severe wind gust just moments before she reported. Meanwhile, there’s no word from Gisborne, or Hawkes Bay: some of the comms lines have been damaged, making cell phone communication difficult if not impossible. There are stories that restoring power may take up to two weeks; other stories say it’ll be on much sooner than that. Anyway, in this situation you want to conserve whatever power you have, since you may not easily be able to charge your phone again, or even make a cup of tea. One assumes organisations like Hōhepa have working generators available, but the sheer scale of the emergency has rapidly become enormous, with several bridges down in the Bay, and flooded rivers.  Getting evacuated safely may well be an issue, if only certain roads and bridges are useable.

Some idiots in Napier waited on Marine Parade to watch the high tide. It’s a really dangerous beach at the best of times! Some people were knocked over in their haste to get away. Really, rescue should be reserved for those sensible people who actually need it.

People in Dannevirke woke to an early call to evacuate; a state of emergency has been declared in Tararua. JD and I couldn’t go to Napier even if we wanted to!

I have to note the lovely and gracious woman fronting AEM (Auckland Emergency Management) who’s reports I have been watching with interest.

Tomorrow I was looking forward to going to a movie and lunch in Khandallah. I’ve just heard that it is to be postponed, which is disappointing, although not really surprising.

I’ll stop now, with, I hope, better news in future.  Relief at our being safe here, thus0 far, is balanced by concern for all the residents are staff of Hōhepa Hawkes Bay, and their families and loved ones, and then for all who have been impacted, some severely, by this Cyclone. One thinks especially of those in care, both people like my daughter, and older folk in care; one thinks then of difficulties likely to occur with distribution of food and fuel. In some areas they’ve been asked to conserve water, and/or are under a boil water notice. One is reminded of just how important it is to have emergency supplies of water, medication, blankets or sleeping bags, and long-lasting foods, and an escape plan.

Slava Ukraini! Ngā mihi nui.

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