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’Once in a Hundred Year’ Storm Pounds Christchurch, New Zealand

By: Christopher C. Burt, 8:24 PM GMT on March 07, 2014

’Once in a Hundred Year’ Storm Pounds Christchurch, New Zealand

A powerful extra-tropical storm sideswiped the coast of New Zealand’s South Island bringing gales and flooding to the city of Christchurch and the heaviest rainfall seen in almost 40 years.

A satellite image of the powerful storm swirling off the coast of New Zealand’s South Island on March 4th. NASA image.

The powerful storm pounded the Christchurch area between March 3-5 with wind gusts up to 119 km/h (74 mph) and rainfall of 151.6 mm (5.97”) as officially measured at Christchurch’s weather station. Of this amount 100 mm (3.94”) fell in just a single 24-hour period on March 4-5. The suburb of Lytelton received 160 mm (6.30”) in 24 hours and other suburbs reported storm totals of 170 mm (6.70”). The normal monthly rainfall for Christchurch in March is just 45 mm (1.77”).

New Zealand rainfall totals for the week ending March 7th. Christchurch is located next to the small peninsula jutting off the east coast of the South Island. As one can see, the heavy rainfall from the storm of March 3-5 was pretty well confined to that area. Map from NIWA, New Zealand’s climate agency.

Hundreds of homes and business’s were flooded and 5000 customers lost power in the city and suburbs (Christchurch’s population is around 360,000). The worst affected suburbs were St. Albans, Avondale, New Brighton, and Woolston.

Alternative transport is used to navigate the flooded streets of Heathcote Valley, a suburb just southeast of Christchurch and near Lytelton where the heaviest rainfall occurred. Photo by Deon Swiggs.

An earthquake devastated Christchurch just three years ago on February 22, 2011 that resulted in the deaths of 185. Apparently some of the city’s streets dropped 50 cm (20”) during the quake and this, some residents claim, has exacerbated some of the recent flooding in some neighborhoods.

Christopher C. Burt
Weather Historian

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