It’s been a year since the Auckland Anniversary floods took the lives of four people and caused billions of dollars’ worth of damage to properties and infrastructure.
January 27 last year began with several weather watches and warnings in place for parts of the North Island. Northland and Auckland were both issued with a severe thunderstorm watch from 9am to 7pm.
“Some of these thunderstorms may be severe, producing localised downpours of 25 to 40 mm/h,” MetService said.
Thousands of people were getting ready to attend the first of Sir Elton John’s much-anticipated Auckland shows, while others were about to head off for a long weekend adventure.
But by mid-afternoon, the first inklings that the day’s rain would be no ordinary event set in.
3.25pm: The first reports of flooding trickle in, with the west Auckland suburb of Kumeū the worst hit so far.
4.35pm: The first road closures begin, with slips on Dome Valley Rd and Kaipara Flats Rd forcing traffic diversions in those areas.
4.41pm: The scale of the weather hitting Auckland is demonstrated by the extraordinary 60mm of rain recorded in just one hour at an Auckland Council weather station.
5.10pm: Fire and Emergency NZ says “every fire truck in Auckland” is responding to more than 400 emergency calls across the region.
5.30pm: The speed of the rising floodwaters in Henderson catches residents by surprise. Cars float down roads as people call out for help. Among the reports of those trapped by the flooding are three children and three staff members stuck in a building at Henderson’s BestStart Montessori.
5.50pm: Parts of the city’s motorway network are under water, with flooding on the northern motorway blocking lanes at the Greville Rd off-ramp and between Northcote Rd and Esmonde Rd on the North Shore.
6pm: Auckland Emergency Management decides against asking for an emergency to be declared.
6.22pm: Kumeū has seen 79% of its normal summer rainfall in just 15 hours, according to NIWA.
“It is possible that parts of Auckland will receive an entire summer’s worth of rain in a day,” it says.
6.37pm: Train services right across Auckland’s rail network are delayed or cancelled.
6.43pm: Emergency Management authorities advise Aucklanders to stay home if they can. The warning comes as people continue to make their way to Elton John’s concert at Mt Smart Stadium.
7.09pm: Organisers cancel Elton John’s show, with an announcement made over loudspeakers at the stadium.
7.25pm: Reports come in that a person has died in floodwaters in the suburb of Wairau Valley. Daniel Mark Miller, 34, had been trying to help others in the area before he died.
7.35pm: Dave Lennard, a volunteer at Auckland’s Museum of Transport and Technology (MOTAT), dies when a landslip hits his home on Shore Rd in Remuera.
7.38pm: SH1 is closed northbound between Upper Harbour Highway and Oteha Valley Rd and southbound between Greville Rd and Upper Harbour Highway.
7.50pm: With the rain still falling and multiple roads closed, Waka Kotahi NZTA for Auckland and Northland says it’s signing off from social media for the evening.
7.55pm: Auckland Mayor Wayne Brown speaks to RNZ about the flooding hitting the city. “We just need the rain to stop, that’s the main issue,” he says.
8.11pm: SH1 is now closed northbound from the Market Rd off-ramp.
8.24pm: Calls to Fire and Emergency NZ pass the 1000 mark.
8.30pm: Nearly 70 people on the North Shore are rescued by lifeguards on inflatable boats.
8.50pm: Auckland Airport is inundated with floodwaters after recording 154mm of rain over 12 hours.
9pm: An 80-year-old woman is rescued from the second storey of her house.
9.01pm: Transport Minister Michael Wood tells Waka Kotahi NZTA to reopen the communication channels it closed earlier in the evening.
9.17pm: The Royal New Zealand Air Force says it’s received a request for assistance from Fire and Emergency services.
9.27pm: Mayor Wayne Brown signs a state of emergency declaration. The public is kept in the dark about this development for nearly an hour.
9.31pm: MetService issues a red weather warning for Auckland until 3am.
9.50pm: Auckland Airport says it’s closing check-ins at its international terminal due to flooding inside the building.
10.15pm: There are reports a person has been swept away in floodwaters in Onewhero in the north Waikato. The body of 58-year-old retired teacher Dave Young is found later that weekend.
10.22pm: Mayor Wayne Brown confirms a state of emergency has been declared.
10.25pm: Fire and Emergency has now fielded 1500 calls for help.
11.15pm: Wayne Brown speaks to media at an impromptu press conference, which some news outlets were not made aware of.
“This is going to be a horrible night for thousands of Aucklanders and their families,” Brown says.
11.49pm: Prime Minister Chris Hipkins says the Beehive Bunker has been activated to help with the emergency response.
Saturday, January 28
12.30am: Daniel Newth is found dead in the Wairau Valley area. The 25-year-old had been kayaking in the floodwaters near his home.
“The current of the floodwater was strong and he got swept into the Wairau stormwater drains,” his sister, Sophia Newth, says.
12.39am: Staff from the New Zealand Defence Force are deployed to help with the emergency response.
1.30am: Chris Hipkins and Kieran McAnulty hold a press conference.
3am: Flooding and slips at Dome Valley, Puhoi and the Brynderwyns close SH1 in both directions.
Following this record-smashing rainfall, thousands of properties are red or yellow stickered. The insurance bill for flood damage tops $1.3 billion.