Long journey to repair cafe after flood.

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It was one year ago last Saturday when more than 90mm of rain fell within 24 hours, causing a deluge that flooded Dunedin, the Taieri, Milton and much of South Otago.

More than 200 homes were evacuated as floods and landslips threatened them, while farms were inundated, roads were scoured and Otago Civil Defence declared an emergency for South Otago.

Nine Lawrence businesses on the main street were affected.

Some businesses in Ross Pl remained closed for a few weeks or months, others had minimal damage and remained open for business, but the Wild Walnut Cafe was one of the worst affected.

Cafe owners Sue Bertram and Jim Merrill talked to The Newsabout the impact the flood caused financially and emotionally.

That Friday evening the flood waters surged through the main street, eventually rising over the cafe’s outdoor tables, to window level – about 60cm – and flowed into their public dining room and kitchen.

“There was mud and silt everywhere,” Ms Bertram said.

“It looked like something out of Hoarders [the television programme].

“Emotionally it was quite stressful and I wouldn’t wish it on anybody.

“People were amazing [sandbagging and helping], and that was the silver lining.”

Ms Bertram said their building contractor had suggested December 15 for a reopening date, but they eventually opened on March 21, eight months to the day, missing out on the summer season.

The couple had to replace their kitchen, appliances, carpet and decor.

“We had extensive repairs and reopening took longer than we first envisaged.

“It has been quite a journey.

“We are trying to be positive for a good season [this summer] and the cycle trail will be something for businesses to look forward to,” Ms Bertram said.

The neighbouring cafe, 26 on Ross, was also damaged, but other businesses further down the street were less so.

Alastair Forbes, of Roxburgh, owns the Highland Medicine Depot in Lawrence which provides prescription medication and postal services.

He said the shop’s carpets and vinyl had to be replaced.

“We managed to soldier on as we were not as badly hit as some other businesses,” he said.

“The local community was really good and lot of people helped.”

The businesses on the other side of the street were not as badly affected and remained open.

Tuapeka Lawrence Community Board chairman Garry McCorkindale said a lot of repair and mitigation work had already been completed but more was to be done.

He said repairs had been made to roading, while stormwater systems and culverts had been cleaned or upgraded.