My city, Wellington, New Zealand, suffered its biggest storm in 45 years this week, with peak wind speeds of 200 km/h.
The night the storm hit all we could see from my house were flashes – not of lightning, but of the 400 volt lines outside crashing into each other. Then the street lights went out. I have my computer plugged into a surge protector rated to stop insanely huge transients, but figured it was wise to shut down.
Sirens wailed around us as emergency services responded to one call after another, the wind screamed, and I worried about how well the roof was nailed down. Sustained gusts were around 130-140 km/h at Wellington airport, with peak speeds of 200 km.h measured atop Mount Kaukau.
This storm classes as one of the five biggest since 1960. Waves off Baring head were the highest on record at 15 metres. Even inside the harbour, high seas smashed rail and road links between Petone and Wellington – cutting off thousands of commuters, while the storm beat into the southern coastline, sending rubble and fish inland. Trees were knocked down, roofs ripped off and buildings damaged across the city.
In the middle of it – in the freezing cold, wet and darkness as the first full day closed and the wind howled, some guy knocked at our front door to sell us a commercial service we already had. He’d have needed to work his way past a small tree that had fallen and was obstructing the approach to the house.
What, I have to ask, has happened to the moral compass of companies that require their employees to go door to door during one of the worst storms on record?
Here’s that storm, by numbers:
Peak wind speed: 200 km/h
Houses without power: 30,000 (out of about 185,000 houses in the Wellington region)
Number of emergency callouts: 935 in first night alone
Schools closed: dozens
People on board the ferry that snapped its moorings: 45
Minimum temperature without 200 km/h wind chill factor: 6.1 degrees C
With wind chill factor: -4 degrees C.
Railway lines washed out: 1
Trees knocked over on my section: 1
Door-to-door sellers trying to make us buy a service we already had: 1
We survived, and so the clean-up begins. I hope the poor guy that came to our front door was OK.
Copyright © Matthew Wright 2013