Friday, January 19, 2018

Thames (NZ): Serious flooding 1938 Hauraki Plains

Was the King Tide 5th January 2018 a big event? Well it appears so! "As a guide, this is one of the biggest events that have occurred in the Firth of Thames in recorded history," said Waikato Regional Council's Rick Liefting. The water level was a metre higher than a normal high tide, combined with the high waves it really was an extraordinary occurrence. (If you missed the significance of the day a collage of photographs has been prepared by Denis Tegg.)

It was reported that the last time the water levels were so high was in 1938, when the Hauraki Plains were flooded. What happened back in 1938, and was it really as bad as the recent event of 5th January 2018. 

1938 Flood Event on the Hauraki Plains.
On the evening 4th May 1938, residents became concerned about the water that was gathering on the Hauraki Plains. Mr C Walsh warned his neighbour at 10pm that the water was becoming a problem. Mr McQuoid and his family took heed but almost immediately the water started to flow into his house, which soon was over three feet deep. Objects floated around the room and the family could not escape. Mr and Mrs McQuoid placed their four small children onto a bed and attempted to hold it all night until flood waters started to recede in the early morning hours. With much relief the family were rescued at daylight and taken to the Pipiroa Hall. Press 7 May 1938. 

Flood waters around Mr C Walsh's home at Pipiroa. The family (right) spent the night in the ceiling.

Boats provided the only way to move about the flooded Hauraki Plains.
 The New Zealand Herald 6 May 1938, stated it was the worst flood in the history of the Hauraki Plains. There had been heavy rain and northerly winds all day, when the high tide occurred around 10pm, the stop-banks broke at Pipiroa and Hopai. Residents such as Mr Keane of Pipiroa also remarked on the suddenness of the flood event and reported levels of four feet around his property, which resulted in loss of farm animals. A beekeeper lost all his hives, the list of losses was large.
The Pipiroa Public Hall, where many people sought refuge during the flood. The stopbank in the foreground had broken.

The Pipiroa Store, which had three feet of water during the height of the flood.
Photographs from the Auckland Weekly News, 11 May 1938, page 46.Source: Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, AWNS-19380511-46-1
Flooding also occurred at Turua and Kopuarahi.  Only the main road at Kopuarahi was above the water, and stock took shelter on this higher ground. Everyone stressed the flood was far worse than the 1936 event, the last great flood. New Zealand Herald 6 May 1938.

Flooding at Thames May 1938.
Thames suffered a similar sudden 'tida'l flood to the recent 5 January 2018 King Tide Event; the water inundated the Grahamstown end of town, but quickly dispersed with the outgoing tide. The Park Hotel for instance had four feet of water and debris, and a car parked outside was submerged to the roof. (full report below)

 Floods at the Thames, in some ways the common denominator in the history of the town and area. Many Thamesites have fought for better flood management since the goldfield opened, while others have chosen to seek reassurance that it is just 'normal' for the town.

Further Reading:
1917 Flood and 1936 Flood