Cyclone Winston brushes Haʻapai groups

Haʻapai Islands in north of Tongatapu have been feeling the effects of Cyclone Winston with strong winds, while the rest of the islands was reported to have experienced heavy rains and flooding.

Social media users reported the strength of the winds at the moment in Lifuka and Foa are likely to cause damage to trees and powerlines.

Tonga Met Services said at 1.15pm this afternoon Cyclone Winston was expected to move close to Haʻapai islands’ of Late, Tofua and Lifuka at 4pm today.

By that time Winston’s centre would lie at 120km Northwest of Tofua or 190km Northwest of Lifuka or 160km  West-Southwest of Late, it said.

The cyclone is estimated to have an average winds speed of 95km/hr(50kts) with momentary gust of 130km/hr(70kts).

It also warned that a gale warning remains in force for Tongatapu,’Eua, Ha’apai, Niuafo’ou and Niuatoputapu.

A heavy damaging swell warning remains inforce for all Tonga coastal waters.

A heavy rain warning remains inforce for Tongatapu,’Eua and Ha’apai and Vava’u.

A flash flood warning remains inforce for Tongatapu,’Eua,Ha’apai and Vava’u.

Meanwhile the New Zealand government has issued a warning for its citizens in Tonga about Cyclone Winston.

It said New Zealanders in Tonga should be aware that Tropical Cyclone Winston is expected to make landfall soon.

It is expected to hit Ha’apai on 16 February as a Category 2 cyclone, and strengthen to a Category 3 cyclone as it moves over Vava’u on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Models predicting the path of Cyclone Winston differ, but suggest the weather system will remain over Tonga for a number of days.

The Tonga Meteorological Service (external link) has issued warnings and precautions for residents of Tonga.  Tonga Police and other authorities have been placed on alert.

The Tonga National Emergency Management Office transmits updates on Radio 1 at frequency 1017 AM, and will be transmitted to all islands.  The Fiji Meteorological Service also provides regular regional updates.

New Zealanders in Tonga are advised to follow the advice of the local authorities at all times (including any evacuation orders) and seek suitable shelter.  Visitors and tourists staying in travel accommodation should follow the guidance of the accommodation management and/or tour operators.

It is generally considered sensible practice not to venture outdoors and remain well away from the sea.

New Zealanders in Tonga are advised to update their registration information (external link) or take this opportunity to register(external link) with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade.  It is also important to keep family and friends in New Zealand updated on your welfare.

New Zealanders in Tonga requiring urgent consular assistance may contact the New Zealand High Commission in Tonga on the following numbers: +676 23122 or after hours on +676 881 7022.

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