Extreme Weather Events

In what increasingly appears to be the new order of things, last week (4th & 5th September 2018) the Ruahine Range on the central North Island of New Zealand was hit by another weather bomb.

Originally the weather forecast only mentioned snow to 800m or 900m. This spring snowfall was only ever going to be a bit cold and inconvenient. The Lodge sits at about 500m and the Stables at 600m. No big deal, or so we thought!

Tuesday the 4th did in fact start with the forecast snow, but then it started to rain. And rain. And rain.

In fact, at River Valley Lodge there was more than 170mm of rain over the next 36 hours, and even more in the Ranges. The heaviest concentrations were on Tuesday.

To put this amount of water in perspective, our annual rainfall is normally in the region of 900mm per year, while in the drought year of 2013 it was a low of 700mm. What we experienced last week was over 1/6th of our average annual rainfall in 36 hours.

No wonder the countryside could not cope.

Some could say River Valley got off lightly, and in some ways, we did. No one was hurt, or human lives lost (though it was hard on new born lambs with many stock losses). All our buildings came through without major damage. There have been slips and damage to the public roads and our driveways. The latter have required a 13-ton digger to be in action for a couple of days, plus truckloads of gravel. Fixing slip damaged fences will be an ongoing job once the land dries out more. Some of the walking tracks around the Lodge have sustained a great deal of damage and what to do with them will have to be assessed later in the year.

The surrounding countryside has the same sort of damage as River Valley but on a greater scale. Many farms have major slips and farm track washouts. Again, repairing the damage will take weeks.

extreme weather - rain 2018
extreme rain, pukeokahu 2018
extreme weather - rain 2018

A Sign of the Future?

Are extreme weather events such as this a sign of what lies ahead? Climate change research suggests that this is in fact the case. This research indicates that as the climate warms this will inevitably lead to more frequent severe weather events.

I think that even in our small corner of the world we see this.

2013, the most severe drought in over 60 years

2017, the heaviest snowfall in at least 70 years

2018, the rainfall event detailed above.


What Shone through This Time Round?

Again, one thing that shines through each time something like this happens is how people band together and help each other out. Farmers on their tractors helping us and each other out, even to the extent of clearing public roads so people can get to their homes. County Council contractors are often overwhelmed with the magnitude of events such as this and can take time to work through everything requiring their attention.

For River Valley staff it involved days, long hours spent out in the rain, clearing culverts, cleaning up silt, unblocking drains, clearing slips and spreading gravel. The way we get on with things makes me proud to be a part of this team.

The second thing is nature is resilient, even if we are often not. By summer, many of the slips will have the first colonising plants doing their jobs. Healing the wounds. Natural succession is a wonderful thing.

This inevitably leads to the question. Can we be better prepared?

Can We Be More Resilient?

This has been a pet interest of mine for some time. How do we as a business, and as a family become more resilient? How do we prepare for blows such as happened last week? Because for sure there will be more of them. Climate Change is real and is happening now. Not all blows will be weather related of course. There will be further world-wide financial melt downs. There will be events that occur that we have not even considered.

Resiliency, too big a subject for this blog, but critical thinking around this is vital. In the meantime, I’m going to get back on the tractor and work with the team in getting River Valley ready for what will be another magical summer season here on the Rangitikei.

Yes, were open!


Brian Megaw

brian & roger helping after the extreme weather - rain 2018

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