Early Sunday morning, not long after midnight, I was awakened by thunder. And lightning. It was one of the most intense storms I’ve experienced—not just Auckland intense, but intense, intense.
It was a big storm: There were some 10,000 lightning strikes in the northern region, and about 1300 in Auckland. The booms were so loud that they kept setting off a neighbour’s car alarm, and the lightning lit up the bedroom, even with the drapes closed. I estimated that it’s height, the lightning was striking about 10 kilometres (6 US miles) from our house, but it moved off fairly quickly.
I experienced some pretty severe storms in the USA’s Midwest, some of which also produced tornadoes, so lots of lightning and thunder isn’t alien to me. But in Auckland, such intense storms are rare, which made it even more noticeable.
The USA’s Midwest had a continent to help build up the power of storms, but Auckland is on an isthmus, located between two oceans. Normally, this geography mutes our storms (cyclones and weather bombs notwithstanding). We just don’t normally get such intense thunderstorms.
This year’s El Niño effect is quite strong, and may be among the strongest recorded. It will mean a hotter and drier summer than normal, and that extra heat could mean more severe storms—if it rains, that is. However, because it’ll be drier than normal—with drought in some areas likely—it could be that this weekend’s storm will remain among the worst I’ve experienced in New Zealand.
So, I lay in bed awake as the storm raged, seeing the lightning flash, even with my eyes closed, and hearing the loud booms, followed by the car alarm nearby—and Nigel slept through it all.
And then there was another thunderstorm around 5am. But it wasn’t nearly as intense.