In brief: Storms not record breakers

Given the media coverage, you can be forgiven for thinking that the June storms were the worst ever to hit New Zealand.

One of the most discussed pieces of evidence was a NIWA wave buoy off Baring Head at Wellington Harbour. It measured waves there at 15 metres high from peak to trough – the largest on record. This surpassed the previous 'record' – anecdotal estimates that wave height during the 1968 'Wahine Storm' was 12 to 14 metres.

NIWA's analysis shows that, while the storms were extreme, they were not record-breaking.

For example, the maximum 10-minute average of sustained winds was 101 kilometres per hour at Wellington Airport. But sustained winds during the Wahine Storm reached 144 kilometres per hour – by far the strongest in the 50 years of records.

Snowfall in the central South Island was also less than the 1973 record. In Methven and Tekapo, snowfall from the June storms was 99mm and 600mm respectively, whereas the equivalent measures in 1973 was 610mm and 670mm respectively. 

See more photos from the storm in this issue's photo gallery: Stormy Times