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Record breaking event not quite what Maungatapere wants to be famous for

In March 2022, Maungatapere broke a national record held for over half a century. But it’s maybe not quite what we want to be famous for!

Thanks to an extreme downpour, Maungatapere now holds the new hourly rainfall record for a low elevation station. National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA) meteorologists confirmed the 103 millimetres of rain recorded between 4am and 5am at Maungatapere, near Whangārei, on Monday 21 March 2022 set a new national hourly rainfall record for a low elevation station.

The previous record was 100.6mm and was recorded 56 years ago in Auckland’s Whenuapai in February 16, 1966.

Between 3.30am and 4.30am the 60-minute total at Maungatapere was even higher: a staggering 123.3mm. However, that didn't count as an hourly rainfall record because those were calculated from top-of-the-hour to top-of-the-hour.

The flash flood triggered by a record-breaking downpour left debris scattered across a farm northwest of Whangārei. Photo / supplied via NZ Herald

The extreme downpour triggered flash floods that destroyed fences, triggered slips, carved out gullies and scattered debris across farmland. Farms in Titoki and Maungatapere were worst affected along with Riponui, Pipiwai, Purua and Ruatangata. Seven or eight farms bore the brunt of the deluge with some recording as much as 320mm of rain during the five-hour downpour.

Significant amounts of lightning were observed in the Auckland and lower Northland regions on 21 March before the deluge. Image source: NIWA

NIWA recorded around 3000 lightning strikes across Northland during the weather event.

The same weather system caused significant flooding in Auckland and Tairāwhiti, and sank the fishing charter boat Enchanter off North Cape with the loss of five lives.

The good(ish) news is that the new record was not the highest-ever hourly rainfall but the highest for a low elevation station, which is up to 500 metres above sea level.

The highest-ever record of 134 mm in an hour is still held by the Cropp Waterfall station near Hokitika on January 8, 2004.

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