I’m actually quite surprised this morning by the amount of people who have asked me “why did you get it wrong?”, With over 100mm of rain being recorded in some areas in less than a day, the rain storm did pack a big punch to a number of areas – but thankfully they were mainly rural. When you think about it, take a look at a map of New Zealand and see just how much land space is made up of towns and cities – at a guess I would say it would be around 5, maybe 10%. In the North Island’s case last night, I’d estimate that about 70% of the Island had torrential rain at some stage. By that rough estimate you can clearly see just how easy it is for a town – or large city like Auckland – to miss the rain.
The forecasts were, in most cases, all spot on. Heavy rain did fall, there were thousands of lightning strikes, and I’d bet money on the fact that some creeks and streams across the North Island had flash floods last night.
An interesting thing to note is how New Zealanders react to weather warnings. In America severe weather warnings are issued every day. When a thunderstorm or tornado doesn’t hit, the public feel relieved. In New Zealand, our first reaction is to say “the forecasts were wrong”. In fact, last night, Auckland was extremely close to receiving a deluge that would’ve seen properties all over the city flooded, but because the weather “breathes”…rain bands explode, then die away, explode back to life, then die away, etc, Auckland was spared at the last minute during a “dying” phase. The rain band broke apart just before it made landfall, sparing the central and western suburbs. However further north, Weather Watch reporter John Martin, from Whangaparaoa, said he saw the heaviest and longest downpour he’s seen in the five years he’s lived there, reporting that the rain was so intense it started pouring down his chimney.
New Zealand was lucky overnight – flooding rains skirted most major centres. All rain warnings issued by MetService were appropriate and the public need to be aware that this is how warnings work. They are a message to warn that all the ingredients are there to make severe weather. I consider the majority of our forecasts were accurate yesterday – the rain was a little late, and for some reason MetService had a fascination with the strong wind that never really eventuated – but we were just very lucky that the heaviest bands of rain were either a few kilometres up the road away from most main centres, or were just a couple of kilometres out to sea. If they had shifted just a small amount I have no doubt in my mind there would be a huge clean up operation underway this morning across the entire North Island and northern South Island.