History – Storm of the century

At the beginning of April 1924 widespread flooding and devastation hit various parts of the country but the worst hit region was from Silverdale, north to Puhoi and across to the Kaipara Harbour, which was hit by a deluge of “Biblical” proportions. The Auckland Star reported that at Silverdale, the Wade River rose 12 feet and the launch wharf and several boats were swept away.

The Puhoi area fared worst of all. Low-lying and close to the Puhoi River, it often flooded but this time the situation was much more serious. The river rose rapidly (reportedly 16 feet) flooding the town and the local store, owned by the Titford and Schollum families, was soon under water. Mr Titford and his son stayed in the store trying to salvage their stock until they were up to their necks in water. The young man fainted but was rescued by Mr Victor Schischka who swam across the swollen river and dragged him to higher ground. The following weekend, a newly-built wharf shed at the Landing Stage on the river was to be officially opened. However, the shed including all the stores just landed by the steamer, together with a large stack of sawn timber and logs ready for transport to Auckland, was washed away down river. Among the lost goods stored in the shed was a trunk belonging to a young lady just arrived on a visit from Australia. An unfortunate start to a holiday in New Zealand. A local library had recently been established in a building on the river bank. Regrettably, this too was flooded and almost all the books were washed away.

School children at the Roman Catholic Convent were unable to return to their homes and spent an uncomfortable night in their school. To add to all the misery and discomfort, the heavy rain caused several landslips. In one instance, blocking a stream in Upper Waiwera which flooded a house belonging to newly-married Mr and Mrs Howell. They managed to escape to higher ground, but lost most of their possessions. Logs carried by the swirling waters hit many small wooden bridges which disintegrated under the onslaught and floated away, leaving farmers unable to get their cream to the factory. Telephone poles were brought down and communication cut. On the Saturday after the storm, while residents were busy clearing up the tons of silt left behind in the town, and on the tennis courts and cricket pitch, a team arrived from Matakana to play a pre-arranged cricket match. There are limits for even the most ardent cricket fans – the match was postponed.
Museum News

For sale: Makers of the Wade, the story of Silverdale $35 • Coming events: Friday 6 November – Coach trip to lavender garden at Waiuku, Karaka and Papakura museums. Fare $37 (inc. lunch), phone 426 8615 to book.