Cyclone Bola hits New Zealand on this day in 1988. Although torrential rains caused significant flooding and landslides, only three deaths resulted from this powerful storm.
The rain began on New Zealand’s North Island on Saturday, March 5, but the storm began in earnest on Monday morning when powerful winds came blowing in from the Pacific Ocean. Sustained winds of over 70 miles per hour toppled hundreds of trees and ripped roofs off many homes. Several large landslides along the island’s east coast blocked roads and severed power and telephone lines. A bridge near Dargaville was completely washed away by the water and the town of Te Karaka had to be evacuated when the Waipoa River flooded, but all residents escaped safely. The most severe damage was caused by flooding, much of which might have been prevented through the use of better soil-conservation policies. The cyclone did major damage to the crop harvest on the North Island, which was just about to begin. Many farmers suffered extensive damage to their land.
New Zealand authorities were resourceful in assisting the public. When it became impossible to rescue people with helicopters due to high winds, they used horses in several situations. The only deadly incident caused by the cyclone occurred when a car carrying five passengers was caught up in raging floodwaters. Two of the passengers managed to swim to safety, but the other three drowned in the car.
Bola did not run its course until March 10. When it was over, more than 20 inches of rain had fallen in some places and hundreds of millions of dollars in damages had been incurred. In the aftermath of the storm, New Zealanders worked to implement better flood-management and soil-conservation policies.