Severe Tropical Cyclone Gita (09P)

Gita formed at 00:00 UTC on Friday February 9 about 210 miles (330 km) west of Samoa, according to the Joint Typhoon Research Center (JTWC). Over the following days the storm gradually intensified whilst making a large cyclonic (clockwise) loop. The system bypassed the islands of Samoa and American Samoa, travelled east of the island of Niue, and made landfall on the islands of Tonga on February 12. The worst impacts are on the Tongan islands of Tongatapu, where the capital Nuku’alofa (pop. ~25,000) is located. TONGA: The eye of Gita passed just south of the Tongatapu islands of southern Tonga. The eyewall passed over the islands of Tongatapu and ‘Enu, bringing maximum sustained winds of about 145 mph (235 km/hr), according to the JTWC. Many municipal buildings have been damaged or destroyed. The government’s Parliament House is reportedly destroyed, and the Tonga Meteorological and Coast Radio Services office in Fua’amotu sustained damage. About 40 percent of homes in the Tongan capital Nuku’alofa have lost their roofs, according to an emergency management official. Images in the media show many flood- and wind-damaged houses. Damage assessments are incomplete due to blocked roads, and the condition of remote locations and smaller islands is not yet known. Power and water supplies have been disrupted, and are not yet restored as of 09:00 UTC on Tuesday February 13. Gita is the strongest storm on record to affect the islands on Tongatapu, according to the UK Met Office. SAMOA AND AMERICAN SAMOA: Gita bypassed the islands of Samoa and American Samoa on February 9-10. Gita was a Category 2 storm on the Australian tropical cyclone intensity scale, equivalent to a strong tropical storm on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale (SSHWS), according to the Fiji Meteorological Service and the JTWC. Local media report that damage is principally due to flooding. The Samoan capital, Apia (pop. ~40,000), recorded 17 in (425 mm) of rain in the four days to Sunday February 11. Images in the media show street-level flooding in Apia. Flooding is also reported in Lelata, Apia Park, Fa’atoia, Matautu, Fugalei, Taufusi and Pesega villages. The condition of more remote locations is not fully known. Samoa has declared a state of disaster. At least 200 people were evacuated from their homes. American Samoa has seen extensive damage to homes, power and telecommunications infrastructure, according to the governor. NIUE: Gita travelled further east of Niue than originally forecast and did not cause significant damage. FORECAST: Gita is currently tracking westward, steered by a subtropical ridge to its south, as a Category 4 storm on the Australian tropical cyclone scale, equivalent to a Category 4 on the SSHWS. Gita is currently impacting the Lau islands of southern Fiji, with an exposed population of about 2,500, according to media sources. The main Fijian islands to the north are not forecast to be impacted by more than tropical storm force winds. A further landfall in New Caledonia is within both the Fijian Meteorological Service and the JTWC uncertainty range, but best forecast tracks have the storm weakening and passing to the south of the island.

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February 2018

 

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