16 Apr 2020

Residents begin clean up of homes damaged by 'freak' waves in Wellington's south coast

12:05 pm on 16 April 2020

Cordons remain in place on Wellington's south coast after huge waves damaged houses prompting evacuations yesterday.

The section of road between Ōwhiro Bay and Island Bay is swamped after massive swells flooded the area.

The section of road between Ōwhiro Bay and Island Bay after massive swells flooded the area yesterday. Photo: Supplied / Grant Maiden

A big southerly swell sent waves about six metres high onto the road and into properties.

Residents had to evacuate the area between Breaker Bay and Ōwhiro Bay and some spent the night in motels.

Today, Breaker Bay Road and The Esplanade between Island Bay and Happy Valley Road - plus Ōwhiro Bay Road to Red Rocks - are closed and likely to remain so for the rest of the day.

Wellington City Council said crews were using machinery to clear debris.

It asked for people to stay away from the area - including dog walkers, runners and cyclists - and anyone who came to the coast to view the damage would be turned away.

Engineers are out inspecting sea walls and roads for damage.

Ōwhiro Bay resident Robb Noble and his wife felt the full force of nature when he returned home after helping put sandbags on neighbouring properties yesterday.

"It came so quickly. A freak wave came over the top which wiped out the handrailing on the bridge across from us ... she [his wife] got swept under had a big drink of seawater and managed to get herself out okay, eventually," he told Morning Report.

She was in a bit of shock and was bruised.

"It was all a bit unexpected and a bit freakish."

He was trapped between his truck and the house while trying to board up the garage. The neighbours rushed to help before the next wave came "so that was lucky", he said, but the truck wasn't working now.

Day after waves damaged property on Wellington's south coast

The clean up after waves damaged property on Wellington's south coast between Island Bay and Ōhwiro Bay. Photo: Supplied

As of this morning, things had calmed down and there had been no more damage.

"All of the damage was done yesterday," he said when the waves hit about 11am.

"We're going to be remodelling the front yard and a few other things. Pretty much everyone's property's had a bit of a bashing. We've just arrived home now and we're sort of starting to do an assessment of what the damage is."

He recalls the waves coming in through yesterday morning when neighbours began placing sandbags and moving cars and boats to avoid large-scale damage.

"It was in the space of two minutes that most of the damage was done and it turned out that what we were doing to protect ourselves was not going to do a damn thing to help us. The waves are just so big and you just couldn't do anything," Noble said.

"[It's the] first time we've seen it like that. We've been here five years, talking to the neighbours who've been here a bit longer than us - it's the worst they've ever seen."

Waves damaged property on Wellington's south coast

The damage yesterday. Photo: Supplied / Jemima Joy

Police said there was no further damage overnight during the high tide.

MetService said the waves were now about half the height of yesterday and were expected to continue to flatten, though cordons remain in place in Ōwhiro Bay this morning.

Philippa Murdoch from the MetService said usually swell peaks rolled in every 10 seconds but these were hitting every 16 seconds.

"That means that there's a lot of power in those waves, so it's not just the height that goes into driving how strong they are it's also that long wave period."