A history of New Zealand's most extreme weather

The MetService prepared us for Thursday's near-nationwide storm by saying it could be as bad as the one that sunk the Wahine in 1968.

Cyclone Giselle dumped heavy rain across much of the country, peaking in the upper South Island. At NIWA's Leatham station, more than 300mm of rain fell in 48 hours.

But that was nowhere near the heaviest burst of rain New Zealand's hosted - that record belongs to the Cropp River on the South Island's West Coast, which in 1995 saw 1049mm of rain in two days.

Here are some other New Zealand weather extremes that'll make you want to either stay at home wrapped up in a blanket, or hit the beach.

  • Most rainfall in 10 minutes: 34mm in Tauranga, April 17, 1948.
  • Most rainfall in 12 hours: 566mm at Prices Flat, Hokitika, through the night of May 11, 1978.
  • Most rainfall in a month: 3813mm at Cropp River, October-November 1999.
  • Least rainfall in three months: 9mm at Cape Campbell, near Blenheim, January-March 2001.
Sam Neill at his orchard in Alexandra - scene of New Zealand's longest drought in 1964 (Getty)
Sam Neill at his orchard in Alexandra - scene of New Zealand's longest drought in 1964 (Getty)
  • Least rainfall in a year: 212mm  Alexandra, 1964.
  • Longest stretch without rain: 71 days at Wai-ti, Marlborough, Feb-April 1939.
  • Coldest temperature: -25degC at Ranfurly, Otago on July 17, 1903. "Beef and mutton are frozen, and can only be cut with a saw or chopper, a knife being of no use," one newspaper reported.
  • Hottest temperature: 42.4degC at Rangiora, Canterbury on February 7, 1973.
  • Most destructive storm: Unnamed storm of February 2, 1936; every major North Island river flooded, buildings destroyed from Kaitaia to Picton, 40 boats sunk or beached, 10 lives lost.
  • Deadliest storm: 54 fatalities, Cyclone Giselle in 1968 (most on board the Wahine ferry).
  • Strongest wind: 275km/h in the Cook Strait, Cyclone Giselle in 1968.
  • Costliest year for insurance companies: 2004, $181 million (2014 dollars), largely down to the February floods in the lower North Island and Marlborough, and the July floods in Edgecumbe and Whakatane.
Flooding near Whanganui in 2004 (Reuters)
Flooding near Whanganui in 2004 (Reuters)
  • Biggest snowstorm: July 24, 1939, with around 6m of snow reported between Gore and Balclutha. It even snowed in Northland, and in Auckland's Mt Eden, Onehunga and Remuera suburbs.
  • Deadliest flood: 51 fatalities in Otago, 1863, after a rapid snow melt. The Clutha rose 6m overnight, and the Shotover River rose 10m.
  • Deadliest tornado: Three fatalities, $72 million of damage (2017 dollars) - August 25, 1948 in Hamilton.
  • Most sunshine in a year: Nelson, 1931.
  • Least sunshine in a year: Invercargill, 1983.
Invercargill - not sunny (Getty)
Invercargill - not sunny (Getty)
  • Hottest year ever: 2016, 13.4degC - 0.8degC above the 1981-2010 average.

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