Tropical Cyclone Gita tearing through the Pacific

By Te Kuru o te Marama Dewes

Tongan communities are preparing for the worst ahead of Tropical Cyclone Gita. Expected to be upgraded to a category 5 storm, it has been forecasted to hit the Pacific island this evening.

The latest weather update from NIWA predicts that Cyclone Gita will make landfall this evening between 7PM and 11PM, increasing in intensity through the night.

All power and communication will be down. Winds up to 230km p/h are expected as well as heavy rainfall with flooding

Tongan resident Popua Afeaki who said the hardware store was open on Sunday, usually all stores closed due to Church. Tongan locals have been stocking up with food and supplies and are staying indoors. A state of emergency was declared today, although Afeaki told Te Kāea that it's cyclone season and there wasn't a great sense of panic.

NIWA Meteorologist Ben Noll says, “Severe flooding as well look, over 50% of deaths associated with tropical cyclones are due to water so again there could significant flood risks. This could have impacts that last weeks to months, again often times after these systems you see a lot of waterborne illnesses, potential impacts to transportation around the islands as well."

Gita was a category 1 when it passed over Samoa causing heavy flooding and power outages, although no deaths have been reported. Now Cyclone Gita is heading to Tonga.

"We're expecting winds up to 230km p/h, very heavy rainfall could lead to severe flooding and coastal inundation as well from the waves," says Noll.

NIWA predicts the storm will pass south of Fiji and New Caledonia with the potential for increased rain and wind in NZ within the next week.