North Island flooding threatens New Zealand’s dairy industry
Heavy rains and flash floods have led to mudslides, the evacuation of thousands across New Zealand’s North Island, and closure of many schools. Residents have been urged to stay indoors and off flooded roads as emergency services assist evacuees.
Last Friday, Jan. 27, was the wettest day on record for Auckland, New Zealand’s largest city. Heavy rains swept across streets and highways, leading to four reported deaths and several landslides and destroying a number of homes and structures. In the aftermath, over 20,000 residents have been displaced, more than 600 flood-damaged cars removed from inundated streets, and some 130 structures deemed unsafe. The full extent of the damage is unclear, but the government already estimates insurance claims will be the highest ever for a non-earthquake disaster.
A full month’s worth of rain fell in just 24 hours as extensive flooding prompted the temporary closure of Auckland International Airport. Summer is typically the rainy season, but this year’s heavy precipitation is being blamed on the La Niña pattern still present in the Pacific. And while ample rain is necessary to pasture the nation’s large dairy herd and livestock, too much rain too quickly is now threatening farmers across the region. Milk that cannot be shipped in a timely manner or stored appropriately, too, could be lost.
With many farms and roads underwater, dairy operations across the North Island will likely be impacted, including by logistical obstacles in transporting milk processing plants. More rain was expected this week, which will only compound problems and delay cleanup efforts. Most areas of the North Island are already at 300 to 400 percent of normal rainfall for the second half of January. And if farmers are unable to move milk, they may be forced to dump it.
Anomalous rainfall, Jan. 17-Feb. 2, 2023
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