14 Feb 2023

Cyclone Gabrielle: Who to call, what to do if the roof comes off or windows smash

10:46 am on 14 February 2023

By Jonathan Killick of Stuff

Gum tree fallen on Kerikeri House

Photo: Monique Edwards

As emergency services respond to callouts across cyclone battered regions, residents may find themselves in a position of having to deal with damage themselves.

Fire and Emergency district manager Brad Mosby said the service had received 177 calls related to weather overnight, and one of them had been about a beach umbrella blown onto a roof.

On Sunday, Auckland's deputy mayor Desley Simpson told the city that crews were on standby but hadn't been able to get to every clogged drain, and people would need to take initiative.

Here's a list of what to do and who to call if Cyclone Gabrielle causes damage to your property.

Damaged roofs

The real problem when it comes to damaged roofs is not pieces flying off, it's water getting into the ceiling, an expert says.

Michael Quellin of Auckland Roofing Solutions said if it looked like roof tiles or irons had come off, the first thing to do was look up into the crawl space and identify whether water was getting in.

"If there's water, you should drill a hole in the ceiling and put some buckets underneath to prevent the ceiling from collapsing."

If roof flashing is coming off, it was not advisable to go out in high winds on a ladder to fix it, Quellin said.

Once a storm had subsided, homeowners could put something heavy like bricks on loose roofing sheets.

Fallen trees

Mike Jarvis of The Treeman said homeowners should not try to attempt clearing a fallen tree on their own, especially if it has downed power lines.

"Fallen trees are incredibly dangerous. If it's fallen on a house, the wood could be under tension so if you take a chain saw to it, it could snap at any time or kick back the saw and cause injury."

Only people who were experienced with a chain saw should attempt it, and should start by cutting away small segments.

Jarvis recommended waiting for an arborist to look at the tree and putting up a tarpaulin or an old duvet where a tree had damaged a house.

He emphasised that people do not need to take up the fire brigade's time with fallen trees.

Broken windows

North Shore glazier Nick Abercrombie of United Glass said that if a window requires ladder access it might not be repairable until after the cyclone has passed.

"Holding a glass pane in the wind is like holding a sail, and the last thing you want is to be climbing a ladder with one."

Abercrombie advises homeowners to get a strong plastic bag and tape up two layers, inside and outside the window, to stop rain from getting in.

He said if there was loose glass, it could be knocked out with a broom, but in general glass shards stuck in a window should not be touched.

Flooded homes

Fred Morley of Chem-Dry has been assisting his team in Auckland with thousands of clean up jobs after last month's floods.

He said if floodwaters were rising, the priority was to move people and precious possessions like photo albums out of the reach of floodwaters.

"Many people try to take to flooding with buckets, but they should only attempt this if they have protective gear like gloves and goggles. Leave it to the pros - we put pumps in."

His best piece of advice was to clean up any rubbish or debris like "floating furniture" that might obstruct tradespeople. If floodwaters had receded, removing mud can also help speed up the job.

Advice from insurers

The Insurance Council of New Zealand has recommended people make claims online and not clog up the phone lines.

Homeowners should photograph and mark the highest point of any household flooding. Any removed insured items should be photographed.

Power outages

Aucklanders can check their address on the Vector website to get an estimate of when their power will be restored, and report outages that haven't been identified.

Progress on outages in Northland can be checked on the Northpower website, or call 0800 10 40 40 to report a new outage.

Far North homes without power can check the status of outages on the Top Energy website, and report outages to 0800 867 363.

This is a Public Interest Journalism funded role through NZ On Air

- This story was first published on Stuff.

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