The Mt Tongariro eruption has once again shown that we can never underestimate nature's power.
New Zealanders, and especially South Islanders, do not need to be reminded of nature's destructive force after the devastating Christchurch earthquakes. But when events like Monday night's eruption occur, you realise just how much we are at the mercy of the seismic and volcanic movements of our islands.
The thing about the eruption is that it seems to have snuck up on us. What amazes me is that even our scientists seem to have been caught unaware. They say they have known for a few weeks of the activity, but did not expect it to erupt now.
The rest of us will have gone to bed on Monday night not knowing anything was amiss, only to wake up early in the morning to hear it all over the news. I was eventually woken up by a series of early morning texts from journalists around the country wanting to know if ash had fallen in Hawke's Bay. When I went outside at dawn there was no sign of ash, but there was definitely a smell of sulphur in the air. It was only later that cars in Hastings were covered in a fine layer of dust.
Wayne McMahon, who lives on the slopes of Mt Tongariro, was one of the first to know something was up. He was evacuated from his home last night and says that as he drove in almost zero visibility to Turangi, animals were coming down from the mountain across the road.
This is not the first time we have heard reports of animals reacting before a natural phenomenon occurs. After the Boxing Day tsunami in 2004 there were reports that wild animals in Thailand had raced for higher ground before the big wave hit.
At least this natural occurrence did not kill anyone or cause any real damage to property. The disruption was to our daily lives was bad enough, with some roads closed for a time and, more seriously, all flights to and from Hawke's Bay Airport cancelled for the day. There were a few stories of people who were forced to hang around Auckland or Napier because they could not get back home. But one thing is for sure, it was the only thing anyone around here was talking about.
Let's hope it was just a one-off eruption and not one of many to come.