Cyclone Bola strikes

7 March 1988

Bridge washout at Wairoa after Cyclone Bola (NZ Herald/newspix.co.nz)

Cyclone Bola, one of the most damaging storms to hit New Zealand, struck Hawke’s Bay and Gisborne–East Cape in March 1988. The weather system slowed as it moved over the area, bringing torrential rain for more than three days.

Worst affected was the hill country behind Gisborne, where warm moist air increased rainfall. In places, more than 900 mm of rain fell in 72 hours, and one area had 514 mm in a single day – more rain than parts of Central Otago get in an average year.

Ensuing floods overwhelmed river stopbanks, damaged houses, swept away bridges and sections of roads and railway lines, and destroyed parts of Gisborne’s main water pipeline. Three people died in a car swept away by floodwaters, and thousands were evacuated from their homes.

Horticulture and farming losses amounted to $90 million (equivalent to $170 million today). Farmers lost large tracts of grazing area, and thick sediment from the ebbing floods smothered pastures, orchards and crops. The government repair bill for the cyclone was more than $111 million ($210 million).

Community contributions

1 comment has been posted about Cyclone Bola strikes

What do you know?

Jahziel Carr

Posted: 26 Mar 2013

I have heard this story about the cyclone bola , however i only know little about it. My great grandmother was one of the people that died in the car, as stated in this story. I'd like to know if you could help me with more information about the people who died in the cyclone. To receive more information about this story would be great because this would link me where i came from.

Much appreciated
Jahziel Carr