Hot but at least Bay's not burning

By Doug Laing

There is no question what the hottest topic around has been the last couple of days as Hawke's Bay swelters in some of its hottest temperatures for several years - ironically when a fair bit of the national weather focus has been about rain and floods in the South Island.

Such times invoke much debate about where the hottest temperatures are being recorded, as if it's some sporting contest with a trophy at the end of the day.

Back in about 1962, when some of New Zealand may have been listening on the radio to some other team score lots of runs against our cricketers - the opposition may have been Australia B - it was also a scorcher of a day out in the provinces.

The temperature, seemingly rising as quickly as the run rate, was up to around 95 degrees on the fahrenheit scale, which is about 35C.

By mid afternoon, I'd had enough of the fact the alcohol or mercury in the thermometer wasn't moving any more, I breathed heavily on to its bowl, held the thermometer directly in the heat of the sun, and held it in the air, in an attempt to get it even closer to the real temperature than was accorded by the 150 million or so kilometres between the solar phenomenon and this planet Earth.

As it climbed past 96F, I rang the local radio station, and reported in yet another record, and changed stations on the transistor radio to await broadcast of the latest detail from my south-end weather station, an imaginative sort of thing to do when one is only 7 or 8 years old.

As time evolved, it became common for TV viewers to challenge the 3pm temperatures in the evening news and weather bulletins, with such concerns as locations of local weather stations.

The weather-recording station was miles out in the sticks, and it would have actually been miles hotter in town.

Some towns were miffed that they did not make the eagerly awaited nightly review of the nation's highs at all.

Borough councils would take it up with the New Zealand Broadcasting Corporation (NZBC), worried that those who were on the weather map had an unfair advantage in the marketing of tourism, or telling people that their climates made their regions the only places in the world worth living in. It just wasn't, er, cricket.

The highest temperature officially recorded in New Zealand was 42.4C in 1973 in Rangiora, North Canterbury, and at Jordan, in the Awatere Valley of Marlborough. The latter will surprise most Kiwis who never knew such a place existed.

Aside from that, it's a bit of a blow to the regional pride of a few North Islanders, but at the end of the day that's just the way it is.

The good news is that we have been able to do something about it, for over the last two days, with temperatures variously recorded as high as 39C, depending on whose private weather station was being monitored or whose glasses were being worn, the region's firefighters have barely "turned a wheel," as they put it.

By early last night, firefighters from Dannevirke to Wairoa had collectively attended just two fires which had any remote connection to the heatwave, both of them extinguished with such haste as to become no more than statistics for the end-of-year report.

"Unbelievable," said one senior officer.

The fire authorities may well take their hats off to the people of Hawke's Bay who have heeded the warnings, and refrained from taking risks with even the most remote spark.

But, as the forecasts point out, there's a way to go yet.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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