Last week’s intense storm caused a trail of disruption and destruction across the island – with widespread flooding, delays and damage caused by the wild sea conditions.
A significant low pressure system had set in above the Tasman Sea to the west of the North Island as early as Wednesday 3 January, and began to rapidly deepen as it approached the mainland. By Thursday morning, the MetService had issued strong wind and heavy rainfall warnings.
“This very dynamic system will bring heavy rain and 120km/h wind gusts to various parts of the country in the coming days” said MetService meteorologist James Millward, “combined with king tides, big swells and the number of people still on holidays around the country, the impacts from this event could be significant and wide-reaching.”
Their predictions proved true. Late Thursday night, strong winds downed power lines on Belgium Street, leading to a two-hour power cut around the Surfdale area. On Friday morning, the island woke to a severe summer storm with heavy rainfall and even stronger gale-force winds. Combined with the king tide, it made for extraordinarily high and choppy seas.
Waves came over the beach on to the grass at Palm Beach, Sandy Bay, Hekerua Bay, Enclosure Bay, Little Oneroa and Oneroa beach (where they reached high enough to engulf the public barbecues). At Palm Beach, dozens of kayaks were slammed against the sea wall as crowds watched the mayhem, while one local braved the seas to rescue a single kayak at Little Oneroa.
The worst of the effects was felt at Onetangi, however, where previous planting efforts to stabilise the dunes were undermined. The dunes were gouged out several metres as far as the road in places, leaving boat ramps and stairs along the beach wrecked.
On the south side of the island, the roads along Blackpool beach, Putiki Bay and Anzac Bay were breached and sections of Causeway Road were flooded at high tide shortly before 11am. The road was later closed, along with Cory Road at Palm Beach where several power lines were down.
Perhaps the most significant damage for some was the destruction of one of the historic boat sheds at the western end of Oneroa beach, which was dismantled and washed into the sea around midday. At Boatshed Bay near Palm Beach, another boat shed was badly damaged.
Travel was cut short too – Matiatia ferry terminal was packed with waiting visitors and locals after Fullers was forced to cancel sailings to Auckland on Friday morning. Patient travellers were able to get underway again at 2pm. SeaLink car ferry sailings from Kennedy Point to Half Moon Bay were also cancelled between 10am and 2pm.
“This was because of a unique weather event combining king tides and gale force winds, and the need to ensure passenger and crew safety,” a spokesperson said.
Part of the jetty at Half Moon Bay on the Auckland side was trashed in the storm, re-opening only on Tuesday after an assessment by Auckland Transport engineers.
The volunteer fire brigade responded to 20 callouts between Thursday evening and Saturday afternoon, mainly in response to downed power lines. Power outages continued around the island into Saturday. • Richard Jones