Cyclone, hurricane, typhoon.
To bastardise a line from the Bard, a storm by any other name can be just as devastating.
In our corner of the world - it’s called a cyclone.
And they’re darn scary, as we all witnessed this week with the arrival of Cyclone Gabrielle.
At my home in Rotorua, we got off relatively unscathed, but many in our region, in our country, did not.
Wind gusts over 140km/h were recorded at exposed coastal locations, according to MetService.
Heavy rain caused flooding and landslides. The pictures are unbelievable.
Not only does the storm bring battering winds and heavy rain but the accompanying storm surges wreak damage to coastal areas.
In the Bay of Plenty region, trees and powerlines were downed.
Over a 24-hour period, there was up to 160mm of rainfall in the Western Bay and 100m in Rotorua and Eastern Bay.
A national state of emergency was officially declared in New Zealand, for just the third time in our history and the first for a weather event.
People in the Hawke’s Bay region have been hit hard - just like when Cyclone Bola struck in 1988. At the time of writing this on Wednesday, at least two people have died. Three died during Bola when a car was swept away by floodwaters.
My heart also goes out to the Muriwai community.
And a volunteer firefighter died after a slip came down on a house he was investigating on Monday night. Another firefighter was badly injured.
We’ve yet to count the cost of Gabrielle, but it’s not looking good. Hundreds of homes have been damaged or destroyed, thousands of people displaced and communities have been left isolated.
Are we going to see more intense and more deadly weather events like Gabrielle?
According to Nasa, on average, there have been more storms, stronger hurricanes, and an increase in hurricanes that rapidly intensify. So most of these increases are from natural climate variations.
However, one recent study suggests that the latest increase in the proportion of North Atlantic hurricanes undergoing rapid intensification is a bit too large to be explained by natural variability alone.
Unfortunately, we are starting to see some of climate science’s predictions come to pass.
I googled, “Is New Zealand safe from climate change?”
The results are scary.
The Environment Ministry said in 2021, not only will climate change affect our physical surroundings, causing extreme weather events, drought and wildfire risk but there are the cultural, economic, mental and physical health and lifestyle effects that will impact our communities greatly.
Gabrielle has shown us just how vulnerable and unprepared we are.
It’s time to sit up and take notice.