“When all is said and done, the weather and love
are the two elements about which one can never be sure.”
― Alice Hoffman, American Novelist 1952 –
Here in New Zealand, we are all bracing for what has been described as the storm of the century. Ex-tropical Cyclone Cook is due to hit us just about now – 6.00 pm Thursday 13 April 2017. Rain is already causing problems and this is purported to be the worst storm since the Wahine Disaster in 1968.
According to New Zealand History “The Union Steam Ship Company’s 8948-ton roll-on roll-off (RO-RO) passenger ferry Wahine, the largest ship of its kind in the world when completed two years earlier, left Lyttelton at 8.40 p.m. on the evening of 9 April. There were 734 passengers and crew on board. Storm warnings had been issued, but rough seas were nothing new in Cook Strait. As it turned out, the Wahine was about to sail into one of the worst storms ever recorded in New Zealand. The ship reached Cook Strait as tropical cyclone Giselle swept south and collided with a southerly front. The combination of warm tropical air and cold air dragged up from Antarctica produced exceptionally violent turbulence. On 10 April, in a bad storm, the Lyttelton-Wellington ferry hit a reef.” See the timeline to disaster here
Early the next day the Captain called for the ship to be abandoned and would-be rescuers lined the shore in the atrocious weather as the Wahine succumbed to one of the worst storms recorded in New Zealand history, and others raced to a further beach where many of those in the water were being washed up.
It seemed impossible that so many lives could be lost so close to shore. Fifty-one people lost their lives that day, another died several weeks later and a 53rd victim died in 1990 from injuries sustained in the wreck. A number of people who reached the shore alive did not receive medical attention quickly enough to prevent death from exposure. Others were drowned or killed when thrown against rocks.
The Cook Strait that connects the North and South Islands of New Zealand is 22 kilometres (14 mi) wide at its narrowest point and is considered one of the most dangerous and unpredictable waters in the world.
The Wahine Disaster is known about and discussed by many to this day.
So now, some 49 years later, we are faced with a similar storm. At this time the sailings across Cook Strait are not cancelled although I suggest that many people will change their travel plans. The airport in Wellington has been closed on and off for most of the day as have several other airports. Severe weather warnings are in place for many parts of the North Island and the top of the South Island.
Several areas have already been evacuated including the Westend of Ohope where the Architect had a holiday home. It was almost on the beach so I suggest there will be little of it left when the storm passes.
Schools have been closed today in anticipation of the storm. There has been some discussion about closing Auckland’s Harbour Bridge. Many businesses have closed early allowing their employees to get home before the worst of the weather hits. But this means that roads are even more clogged than usual.
So while I wish you all a very Happy Easter I’m taking time to think of all those people who will have to return to devastation and flooding, some of whom haven’t yet recovered from last week’s storm, courtesy of ex-cyclone Debbie.