• Patrick McBride

A look at the May flood of 88

After the driest April on record, heavy Southwest rain fell between May 9 -19 raising all West Coast rivers to major flood levels.

Grey River in flood

PHOTO: File.

5pm on the 19th of May 1988, catchment board staff advised Council that inland rivers of the Grey catchment were higher than that of the 1984 flood levels. They predicted the flood levels would be over the wharf by 10pm that night.

Blaketown Lagoon was first to go with many houses and business in the low lying Blaketown and Greymouth area flooded. By 9.40pm water was flowing over the wharf at the lowest point by the Richmond Hotel.

At Dobson the river had peaked in the early hours of May 20 with a record level, 5.4m above the normal. A state of emergency was called coinciding with the incoming tide.

The river poured over the wharf and Mahwera Quay, inundating the town. Asphalt was ripped from the Streets and railway lines destroyed. Over 1m of mud laden water flowed through the Union Hotel for the first time ever and the aerodrome resembled a lake.

In Cobden the newly constructed flood wall had saved many homes. In all, 400 people from 102 houses were evacuated. The total loss at the time was estimated to be 4 million.

The most disastrous flood in the towns history was yet to come. September, 1988 would result in 16 million in damages, displacing a large number of homes and businesses in the Grey District. ONE NEWS ARCHIVE VIDEOS BELOW.