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Tornado-like weather event causes damage in Ha’ateiho

Radio & TV Tonga, Nuku’alofa, 30/12/2019

Houses, trees, electricty and telephone wires were damaged this morning in Ha’ateiho in what witnesses described as a tornado, but has been confirmed by the Tonga Met Services to be a gust front or squall line, which is not uncommon with cyclones.

When Radio Tonga reporters went out to Ha’ateiho, the damage was clear to see from the main road, the Taufa’ahau road in front of the Free Church of Tonga in Ha’ateiho.

Witnesses say this reported tornado came from the Northern side of the village, traveling southwards, tearing roofs off houses, felling trees, and whipping up the debris into the sky with about 5 or more houses having been affected.

A police officer who lives in the area – Emaloni Tongi, explained that he had heard the loud thundering noise at about 10am this morning and when he walked outside he saw the roof of the house across the road get ripped off and carried about 100 meters into an empty lot next to his house. Tongi says it was a frightening sight but it didn’t stay long in the area, only about 3 minutes, before it carried on southward towards Keleti beach.

The house Tongi saw the roof being ripped off, stood a block behind the Free Church of Tonga and belonged to a young family who were still asleep inside when this tornado-like weather event occurred.

The young mother – Heilala Le’ota said she was woken abruptly by her husband only moments before their roof was torn away. She said they grabbed the children and huddled in a corner, too scared to run outside. She was visibly emotional during the interview, still shaken by the ordeal and the close brush with death.

The tornado-like weather event left many in the village shocked with some of the elderly saying this is the first time for them to witness such a weather event.

Within half-an-hour of the incident, Tonga Power linesmen were already on the scene to repair the electricity wires damaged, and police also arrived promptly to divert traffic as the Taufa’ahau Road had to be blocked due to debris on the road, which included electricity wires.

The Acting Director of the Tonga Met Services – Laitia Fifita confirmed that this tornado-like weather event was in meteorological terms a “gust front” or “squall line” and is commonly associated with active weather, such as rain showers or thunderstorms.




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