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Cyclone Gabrielle: Woman has heart attack evacuating home after tree fell on her house

Melissa Nightingale,
Publish Date
Mon, 13 Feb 2023, 2:14PM

Cyclone Gabrielle: Woman has heart attack evacuating home after tree fell on her house

Melissa Nightingale,
Publish Date
Mon, 13 Feb 2023, 2:14PM

A Whangārei woman has suffered a heart attack mid-evacuation after Cyclone Gabrielle brought a huge tree down on her home last night.

Debi and Graham Hobern were watching TV in their house on Michel Colombon Close when the incident happened.

“We heard what we thought was a very loud clap of thunder,” she told the Herald.

 “For some reason [Graham] got up and went down to the back of the house, and when he drew the curtain, the tree was there.”

The tree had fallen from the street behind them, and was across the roof until about the midway point of the 250sq m house.

“We rang triple one and the fire engine people came and told us we had to get out and the house because they don’t know whether the tree would stay on the roof or whether it would come through the roof.”

Debi Hobern, 64, began driving to her mother’s home but soon realised she couldn’t drive.

“I was having chest pain and shaking badly, I had gone into shock,” she said.

Fortunately Hobern, who has myocarditis, lived near her carer and was able to pull up to her house and get her help. Her husband is legally blind with only 10 per cent of his vision, so could not drive them.

The carer drove the pair to Hobern’s mother’s home, at which point they had decided to call an ambulance, as she was in “extreme pain”.

Hobern was rushed to hospital and told by doctors she had suffered a heart attack, after suffering one previously in late 2021.

She was confident the stress and fright of the tree falling on her house had triggered it this time.

“Now I have to sit here and wait to hear how badly I’ve damaged my heart.”

Hobern said she felt “like shit”.

“I got two hours of sleep last night,” she said.

Hobern, who said she was normally a particularly cheerful person, was “very upset” about what had happened to her “beautiful” home.

She is also too scared to go back and sleep in her bedroom due to a towering Norfolk pine in the reserve behind her house.

She has already asked the council to cut it down twice in fear it will fall across the bedrooms in her house and will be asking council a third time to cut it down after this recent incident.

“I just don’t feel safe going back to our house now.

“I’ll sleep in the lounge if I have to.”

The damage to her house, how long it will take to repair, and how much it will cost remains to be seen.

MetService has warned the worst is yet to come for Cyclone Gabrielle, with higher winds set to pick up towards this evening.

There are 24 severe weather warnings and watches in place across the country, and states of emergency have been declared in Auckland, Northland, and Coromandel, where at least 50,000 homes were without power.

All Auckland trains have been cancelled and almost every school is shut, as residents are urged to stay home.

Air New Zealand domestic flights in and out of Auckland and multiple international flights are also cancelled, as well as flights through other northern regional airports.



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