Pity the unprepared – and the prepared

Phil Campbell
 

For several days out from the recent weekend, local councils in the Bay of Plenty and beyond were preparing for the first of the summer’s cyclones. Or maybe the only cyclone.

In Rotorua, fearing a repeat of last April’s freak storm which seriously flooded a new housing division at Ngongotaha, the local council posted a statement on its website.

It seemed feverish, for good reason, though it’s likely a routine warning refined or updated each year depending on the severity of the imminent deluge.

On Saturday, Oma (for ‘Oma God?’) was downgraded. The predictions or warnings of previous days were scaled down from a possible intensely damp, swirling wind-swept typhoon to a mere eddy, an zephyr at best.

Geographically, Rotorua seems the recipient of the dying ferocious weather from the north and the south.

It is rare the district is visited by the eyes of storms, unless they course directly from the Bay of Plenty coastline, and not through Auckland and the Waikato. From the south, the blustery weathers die before Taupo.

Thus, Rotorua is luckier than most districts.

At each warning, however, the town’s emergency services are on some scale of alert – red alert the ultimate.

As a consequence of April last year, Rotorua braced itself another hit, as it happened a contretemps, since the local council and the regional authority were heavily criticised at the poor defences to thwart a huge concentrated swish of floodwater through the village housing area.

Nor should it be overlooked, either, other parts of the district were deluged; one couple helplessly in the United Kingdom for three months when their home was flooded.

Just as it takes success on the chin, the Rotorua Lakes Council was forced to eat the harsh observations that it had not prepared for what is termed these days a weather “event”.

To the credit of both authorities, neither did they attempt to retrieve positives from the devastation caused to youngish families affected by the flooding.

By now, though, those who follow the weather – and we all do, since information is omnipresent on news sites and television and our technological toys – must wonder whether the obsession is, well, obsessive.

For contrary to Jeremiac warnings, not everything matures as forecast. Too often weather warnings come to nothing.

Even our temperature can be misleading.

One rule of thumb in Rotorua is that if a temperature of 24 is recorded as a high in Rotorua, a punter an add 2 degrees and get it right. The reverse applies in winter.

Over the last few days, the regional council and the RLC would have felt relieved the storm did not unleash in the area – but the bolder relief probably is that had it hit the district was much better prepared.


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