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TD04F possible to develop into tropical cyclone that can reach category 3

Radio & TV Tonga, Nuku’alofa, 15/01/2020

The Tonga Met Service has warned that Tropical Depression 04F currently situated North of Vanuatu is expected to develop into a tropical cyclone and the Director of the MET OFFICE ‘Ofa Fa’anunu says on its current track it is moving south east towards Tonga and can affect the country this weekend.

Fa’anunu told Radio & Television Tonga News, “Currently the system is still a weak one – 25 to 30 knots near the center. But over the next few days we expect the depression to move to the North of Fiji, and slowly intensify into a category 1 cyclone. From there we expect it to move south-east towards the Tonga group. By Friday night or Saturday morning we should be expecting a category 2 cyclone near Tonga, around Friday night or Saturday morning, which should affect the group with strong winds and heavy rain and will last throughout the weekend until probably Monday afternoon.”

Fa’anunu says there is still a potential for this cyclone to become a category three, so they are advising the public to prepare for a category 3 cyclone.

“Category 3 system is about 65 knots, 65-85 knots. In terms of km per hour, we’re looking at around 120 – 160 km per hour. There’s a slim chance that it might get there to category 3,” he said, adding “We are forecasting for a category 2 which is around 90-120 km per hour which damages would be a lot of damage to agriculture and there could be some roof damages to weaker structures and if goes up to a category 3, there can be a structural damage of buildings so once we get to category 3 we’re looking at the severe tropical cyclone which will have destructive winds and possible sea flooding in low lying areas.”

However this information can change in the coming days so Fa’anunu emphasized that it is important for the public to stay up to date with the latest weather update and to be prepared for a category 3 cyclone.

The Director explained, “Right now the system is still very far, it’s around 1600 km to Niuafo’ou and close to 2000 km to Tongatapu. So over the next few days these predictions will change.”

“We can’t really say at the moment exactly which part of Tonga will be hit the most or where the center of the system may cross. So the advice at the moment, the warnings and the advisories right no covers the entire Tonga group, from the Niuas to Nuku’alofa. So starting from tomorrow (Thursday) maybe Thursday around noon or sometime in the evening, we may activate the Fua’amotu Tropical Cyclone Warning Centre, once criteria are met for 48 hours response.”

“But right now the advice is for the people to have in mind that we are expecting a cyclone over the weekend and there is a potential that this cyclone can be severe. Everybody needs to be listening to the radio, getting information on their social media pages, on the internet – our website, for us to follow this system as it approaches us from Fiji in the next few days.”

“These information will change so you need to update your information every 3-6 hours so you are able to know exactly what the weather will be doing. We’ll be updating everyone in the next couple of days and when warnings criteria start to get met then we will update the warnings accordingly but that is the information we can provide to you right now.”

© Radio and Television Tonga News