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Weather Highlights of 2006

Weather Highlights of 2006

It was the coldest June since 1972, and that was mainly due to the "snowball storm" that hit on 11-12 June. We had a southerly autumn, an early and slippery winter, a windy spring and then a cool start to summer. This article gives some notes from the diary of the MetService Weather Ambassador Bob McDavitt to help you re-live the main damaging events of our weather during 2006.

Monday 2 Jan: The first big blow of 2006 came when a low-pressure system deepened to 950 hPa near Campbell Island. Trees were toppled in Dunedin and bush fires were fanned in Christchurch. Wind blown braches cut power to parts of Wellington and Balclutha. Heavy rain hit the Arthurs Pass area and snow coated the Queenstown hills.

Tuesday 24 Jan: The day after Wellington's anniversary day. Easterly winds gusted to 130 kph in Auckland. Power was cut to 7,000 homes in Coromandel.

28th-29th-30th January: An anticyclone brought a heat wave to central Otago. Alexandra hit 36 degrees. During this period Wellington airport had problems with fog.

Waitangi Day, 6th February. The Westport reservoir was drying out. An evening waterspout was seen between Waiheke and Auckland harbour.

Friday 10 February deluge: A front stalled over the North Island and brought 150mm of rain to Whakatane and a report of 250mm near Matata.

Friday 3 March: Polar outbreak #1 came with a southerly from the Southern Ocean. Gusts reached 113 kph in Lyttelton, 137 in Kaikoura, and 143 at Mt. Kaukau. 8 to 10m swells cancelled the Cook Strait ferries. Trees were snapped in Christchurch, roofs lifted in Wellington, and a warehouse fire fanned in Hawke's Bay.

Late March cyclones. CYCLONE LARRY reached category 5 before it made landfall north of Cairns and single-handedly took out more than 50% of the Queensland banana crop. CYCLONE WATI followed in Larry's path but then diverted towards New Zealand and crossed Whangarei on Wednesday 29 March. It weakened a lot in the Tasman Sea but still managed to bring a brief gale to Cape Reinga and around 100mm of rain to Kaikohe.

Thursday 6 April. A tornado ripped through part of a house at Kapiti.

Anzac day and day after: Polar Outbreak #2 was caused by rain clouds wrapping around onto south Canterbury just as a southerly arrived. Flooding affected Oamaru, Dunedin, Mosgiel, and Taieri. 300 homes were evacuated. Snow closed Lindis Pass.

Friday 28 April. A few days later another rain band stalled over Coromandel, and the Ohinemuri River flooded closing the Karangahake gorge. Pauanui was also hit by flooding. At Hahei a landslip undermined a house.

Sunday 14 May. Mother's day southerly and polar outbreak #3. Snow closed Milford Road, Burkes Pass and the Desert Road.

Saturday 27 May. Super 14 final at Jade stadium was affected by thick fog. Lows scrummed together in the Tasman Sea and mauled across Southland. The fog rapidly formed in the moist calm air left behind over Canterbury.

Monday 12 June. Polar outbreak #4. Winter started with a bang when a deepening low managed to mix moist air from the tropics with cold air fresh from the southern ocean. This low-pressure system was a large feature and MetService issued a record number of wind, rain and snow warnings. Hokitika was flooded, a gale in Auckland cut power to half the city for around five hours, and trees were toppled in Taupo and Tauranga. Snow blanketed Canterbury to a depth of 25cm at sea level (in Timaru) and up to 90cm deep around Fairlie. This snow lasted on the inland Plains for a fortnight. 10,000 homes were affected by power cuts in Canterbury and some of these cuts lasted until the end of June. Insurance claims reached around $43 million. The snow laid good foundations for a bumper ski season that realised $75 million revenue.

Sunday 18 June: Polar Outbreak #5. A southeasterly gale brought gusts to 98kph to New Plymouth and 80 kph to Gisborne. Both the Desert Road and the Napier-Taupo road were closed by snow.

Wednesday 21 June: Polar Outbreak #6. Another southerly brought snow that closed all the central North Island main roads and settled down to 500m in Hawke's Bay.

During July four very wet low-pressure systems hit the area from Wairarapa to Wanganui and around Wellington, two in the first week, saturating the soils and leading to a slippery winter.

Wednesday 5 July. Martinborough was cut off by floodwaters. Winds to 146 kph damaged roofs in Wellington.

Friday 7 July. Flooding affected Carterton and Masterton, the Desert road was closed by snow and HW2 out of Wellington was reduced to one lane by a slip at Horokiwi. The Mangamahu Bridge between Wanganui and Mangamahu was washed out and 125 homes were evacuated from rising floodwaters at Whangaehu near Wanganui.

Friday 14 July. A slip damaged two homes at Hunterville. Slips closed the Rimutaka Road, and there was another slip at Horokiwi.

Thursday 20 July. A slip undermined a house in Eastbourne.

Sun 6 August. A low-pressure system moved onto the North Island. A heavy downpour led to a car being washed into a drain at Wellsford. Whakatane had 105mm of rain. The next day a slip started in Kelson near Lower Hutt, undermining a house. The following day, the Heathcote River in Christchurch flooded.

Tuesday 22 Aug. Polar Outbreak #7 Snow settled to a depth of 30cm in the Tekapo Basin, and was enough to close roads in Otago, and schools in Dunedin.

Saturday 26 August. Another low crossed the North Island. Slips derailed the Johnsonville train and damaged houses in Kilbirnie and Te Aro.

Saturday 2 September: A low-pressure system deepened from 976 hPa to 950 hPa to south of Campbell Island producing a vigorous westerly flow over the South Island. Trees were toppled at Athol and a car and caravan were blown off the road near Lake Tekapo. The Mid-Dome anemometer in Southland reported gusts to 195kph (strongest recorded wind gust of 2006).

Sunday 17 September: Polar Outbreak #8. Several hundred new-born lambs in Southland and Otago succumbed to wet windy conditions.

Sunday 1 October: An afternoon thunderstorm in Auckland brought wind and flooding damage to Henderson and slips that resulted in three houses being evacuated in Birkenhead.

Wednesday 4 October. Polar Outbreak #9. This southerly disrupted transport in Wellington: planes, trains, and ferries were cancelled. A rail bridge at Mauriceville, north of Masterton, was washed out.

Sunday to Monday 8-9 October. Strong northwesterlies felled trees and cut power to 1,100 homes in Southland and Otago.

Thursday 12 October. A roof was ripped from a building at Timaru Boys High School. During the following few days peat fires were fanned around Dunedin hills.

Thursday 19 October: Wind gusts lifted asphalt from the road up to Mt John and reached 176 kph at Castlepoint and 179 kph at Rimutaka summit.

Labour Day. Rain brought slips that closed the Manawatu Gorge road and the road to Eastbourne.

Wednesday 8 Nov: Polar Outbreak #10. Snow was widespread over Southland and Central Otago. 10cm of snow settled at Jolly Pass (350m altitude).

Thursday 9 Nov: A deepening low crossed the North Island bringing a four-hour westerly gale to Auckland. The Sky Tower had gusts to 140kph and was evacuated, and there were around 400 callouts due to power disruptions.

Tuesday 14 November. Northwesterly winds gusted to 161 kph at Mt. Kaukau and 140 kph at the summit of the Rimutaka road, where a truck was blown over. A truck driver was fatally injured by falling branches near Hanmer. The Waimakariri River reached 2,500 cumecs (a ten-year high) and the Rakaia reached 5,000 cumecs (a 25-year high).

Sunday 26 November. A truck was blown over in Hawke's Bay

Wednesday 29 Nov. A truck was blown over at Craigieburn. Lake Wakatipu almost reached 311 metres above sea level, exceeding its warning level but with only minor flooding. The Hutt River flooded.

Friday 15 December: A landslide into Pohangina River near Ashurst killed three children. It wasn't raining at the time.

Wednesday 20 December: Snow dusted the Central Otago hills and Southern Alps.

During December the weather was settled enough so that both five-day cricket tests were played with just one brief weather-related interruption. It rained during Christmas in the Park and one of the U2 concerts in Auckland, and was clear for Elton John's concert in Wellington.

Happy New Year from the MetService Weather Ambassador, Bob McDavitt


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