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STORM PUZZLE.

SIGNS WERE THERE. BUT WARNING NOT GIVEN* NEED FOR WEATHER BRANCH. Since the great storm of the weekend one question has been on everybody's lips in Auckland: Why was warning of it not given by the meteorological service? No one supposes that the weather experts ,can forecast every coming change in weather conditions, but a storm which residents who have lived in Auckland all their lives are agreed was the worst in their memories, a storm which almost reached official hurricane force and caused record floods in numerous parts of Auckland Province, a storm which levelled trees and sheds, tore off roofs, brought down telephone and telegraph and power lines, dislocated railway communications over a great part of the North Island and worked havoc to the tune of scores of thousands of pounds among fruit and other crops—one would have thought that it could not fail to have been foretold. There was no hint of the coming ordeal in Friday's weather forecast, and Saturday's forecast was no more ominous than Aucklanders have read on many past occasions when nothing worse than heavy rain and local floods resulted. On Saturday it was stated: "While an anti-cyclone of slight intensity has moved on to the more central and southern portions of the Dominion, a deep cyclone is moving from the north (at sea?) towards the northern extremity (of New Zealand?)." Winds were forecast as "strong to gale" with "heavy rain, rivers flooded, barometer falling, seas rough to high."

The other side of the picture was given to the "Star" by a man with long seafaring experience. "The primary duty of a meteorologist," he said, "is to give due warning of approaching storms to those interested, so that, when necessary, due precautions can be taken to safeguard property from the elements. It is exceedingly difficult to understand why no warning was given the public of the approach of the recent cyclone as all the signs were there which, even to an amateur meteorologist, would have given warning that something out of the ordinary was about to happen. All the Portents. "At noon on Friday the glass was exceedingly unsteady, fluctuating between 29.58 and 29.56 inches with a falling tendency. On that evening an extraordinary sunset was witnessed; the whole western sky being a mass of livid fire, with long, lurid streamers of purple and crimson flame shooting up from the horizon, and rapidly rolling banks of cumulus clouds making up from the west. Just before the sun disappeared an observer could have seen great flocks of seabirds coming over the land from the West Coast, all screaming nervously during their flight. "At darkness all the portents of heavy weather approaching were to be observed by one competent to read them. The moon had an ominous wind ring around it; the' wind, what little there was, was inclined to back against the sun and the glass still showed a falling tendency, with the mercury cup-shaped, instead of level, a certain sign of the coming of a heavy gale. Barometer's Behaviour. "Saturday morning commenced with rain and a barometrical pressure still lower. The coming of the rain, backed up by the erratic behaviour of the barometer, to an old sailor like myself, was a certainty that I had read the signs aright. In the sailing ships we had a little rhyme to remind us of this fact. It went somewhat like this: " 'A falling glass, and when yon find, First the rain and then the wind— Call all hands and heave her to, Before the gale takes charge of you.* "At noon on Saturday the glass stood at 29.54, a fall of four-tenths in ,24 hours. Any meteorologist worthy of the'name could then have foretold with certainty the weather for the next 24 hours. Instead of a warning we received a forecast that was assuring in its text. At 6 p.m. on Saturday, or three hours before the final radio forecast was made, the portents were mbre ominous still. The glass had dropped to 29.51, a total fall of seven-tenths of an inch from noon on Friday, with extraordinarily heavy rain clouds coming up from the west, an unsteady wind, and the mercury more cup-shaped than ever. '

"When the forecast was made from the radio station the glass read 29.49 and still there was no warning. The drop between 9 p.m. on Saturday night and daylight on Sunday was phenomenal, the reading of my barometer, which is a most accurate glass, being exactly 29in at 6 a.m. on Sunday. At 10 a.m. the' glass reached its lowest point, 28.57 in, the lowest reading I have yet seen in New Zealand during 25 years' observation. Attention to Simple Rules. "I do not know who is responsible 1 for the weather forecasts supplied to the Press and to the radio stations, nor do I wish to criticise anyone, but I do say that if attention had been paid to the simple rules applied to weather forecasting between Friday night and Saturday at noon, due warning could have been given by the Press and by radio, and thereby yachtsmen and farmers could have benefited to a very considerable extent." The failure of the weather service to forecast the greatest storm in New Zealand's history is regarded as the must striking proof that could possibly be supplied of the urgent need for a properlv equipped branch of the Meteorological Department in Auckland to study the peculiar weather conditions governin"- the province which are the result of° its geographical situation and its unusual land Configuration. It is contended that it would be hard to find on the world map another city of equivalent size and commercial importance which is subject to such extraordinary weather changes. A. neck of land, only a tram-ride in width, and a longer, narrow mountainous neck, buffeted on one side by the stormy Tasman and on the other by the expanse of the world's largest ocean, and the whole situated in the belt of the westerliessuch a combination of circumstances would seem to demand a particularly capable and well equipped weather research station. Hobsonviile's Lone Barograph. At present this whole area, indeed the whole of Auckland Province, within which live more than one-third of the whole population of the Dominion, is served merely by bulletins issued by the central weather bureau in Wellington. It is now almost certainly only j a matter of months before two great air I

services from San Francisco and Sydney will junction in Auckland, and there has been talk for months past of a weather station to be established at the Hobsonville air base. It was announced that it would be under the charge of a meteorological expert who has had wide experience, Dr. W. A. Macky, once a science master at the Auckland Grammar School and later a lecturer at Auckland University College, who Ims since learnt his work at Cambridge, with the British Air Ministry and at the world's greatest air poi't, Croydon. What ia the position at the air base to-day? The position at the Hobsonville air base to-day is that whereas it once had an anemometer (which registers I the speed and direction of the wind) and a barograph (registering barometer) only the barograph is now working. The anemometer has been out of action for two months, and the site on which its cups once turned merrily in the breeze has been levelled to make way for a new hangar. One solitary barograph is to-day the sum total of the meteorological equipment of the Hobsonville air base.

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Permanent link to this item

https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/AS19360205.2.81

Bibliographic details

STORM PUZZLE., Auckland Star, Volume LXVII, Issue 30, 5 February 1936

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1,262

STORM PUZZLE. Auckland Star, Volume LXVII, Issue 30, 5 February 1936

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