Searing heat as drought eases

By Doug Laing

Thunderstorms broke the drought in parts of Hawke's Bay yesterday, despite record March temperatures for the region.

A rain gauge at Kahuranaki, south of Havelock North, recorded more than 30mm of rain after 4pm, yet just a short while earlier the temperature at Hawke's Bay Airport hit 32.9C - the highest March temperature known in Napier in at least 108 years.

The thunderstorms, which MetService meteorologist John Law said occurred in a band south of Cape Kidnappers to Southern Hawke's Bay, had not been predicted, although some rain similar to that of the weekend was forecast.

But the temperatures exceeding 30C signalled in MetService forecasts since early last week were surpassed, with the city temperatures hitting 32.7C in Napier and 32.6C in Hastings, with 31.2C being recorded in Gisborne.

Climate agency NIWA said the previous highest March temperature in the 40 years of the airport weather station was 32.3C on March 9, 1983.

Yesterday's maximum in Hastings was a record for its station since recordings were first taken there in 1981, the previous high having been 31.8C, also on March 9, 1983.

NIWA said that at Nelson Park in Napier, for which weather statistics dated back to 1905, the record March temperature had been 32.8C, on March 3, 1948.

Mr Law said the thunderstorms began occurring about 4pm and later Kahuranaki Station manager Paul Robinson checked the rain gauge for Hawke's Bay Today and reported 32mm - the first rain on the farm in more than two months.

It spilled from the gutters as he was crutching under cover, and he said: "It let fly for over an hour, and then it had 2 or 3 goes at it."

While the thunderstorm wasn't forecast (although some rain was expected), Mr Robinson wasn't surprised as the weather pattern unfolded during the day.

"It was on the cards: By Jesus it was hot," he said at the station where there had been little rain since September and where the drought was already in full swing when the Hawke's Bay dog trial season started there on January 31.

In Southern Hawke's Bay, Sam Morrah recorded 16mm in less than an hour at Ohineumeri, near Wallingford. At Porangahau, farmers at a volunteer fire brigade gathering early last night said rain had fallen over most of the district, in and around the coastal township.

However, local fire chief John Galbraith commented that, despite the drought, his brigade had attended just one grass fire since January 1.

"I remember one drought where we went to six in one afternoon - we had hoses spread out all over the district," he said. "Everyone's being pretty careful this time."

Yesterday's rain wasn't enough to break the drought, but it was "a start", Mr Robinson said. He was looking forward to more rain today.


- Hawkes Bay Today

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