Kylie Sutherland was up the whole night on Tuesday with her terrified 5-year-old son, listening as the roaring wind and rain pounded their house in rural Hawke’s Bay.

At 4am she finally fell asleep, only to wake up a few hours later to find their property submerged.

A slight incline saved their home, but their family apple orchard and cousin’s homes were not so lucky.

Hawke’s Bay has received the most damage of any region from Cyclone Gabrielle sweeping the North Island over the past three days - thousands of people have been forced out of their homes and two people have died in the region. 

Many parts of the region are without power. A major power substation was completely flooded causing damage that operator Transpower said will take “days to weeks” to fix.

Kylie and her family, like many people in Hawke’s Bay, are without power, have limited water due to infrastructure damage and only very spotty cell phone coverage.

A surprise hit

Kylie says that while they knew the cyclone was coming, the warnings had emphasised Northland and Auckland so much that they hadn’t expected Hawke’s Bay to get hit so badly.

“We knew it was coming and to be ready, but no one knew how bad it was going to be here.”

She said the major damage in their area has come from rivers overwhelming the stopbanks.

Kylie’s cousin was at home with her kids yesterday afternoon when she heard the stopbank of the Ngaruroro River break.

“She jumped in the car with her family and got straight out of their orchard. She had to take some different roads, but they managed to get out.”

The broken bank completely flooded four of her family's houses, and their apple orchards.

“They’re trying to get into their houses now to see what damage there is. A couple of them that have managed say the water gets up to the height of the benches.”

The apple picking season was due to start next week but Kylie says they don’t know if they’ll be able to salvage the crops at all.

From what they can see of their orchards, the water is as high as the first layer of apples and only the mature trees are still standing.

“We haven’t been able to fully assess the damage to the orchards and machinery, but I dare say it’s all a write off.”

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