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UPDATE 01/22/13 3:00 AM: GALE WARNING FOR TUTUILA CANCELED

Public schools will be closed today
reporters@samoanews.com
Times listed are universal time. American Samoa is 11 hrs earlier. Click on graphic at end of story to enlarge. (Updated 12:01 AM 1/22/13)

The gale wind warning for the main island of Tutuila in American Samoa has been canceled as Tropical Cyclone Garry continues to slowly move towards the Manu’a island group but a high surf warning for all shores of the territory remain in effect.

Mase Akapo, the meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Tafuna says that as of just after 12mid night, Jan. 22, the storm was abut 65 nautical miles northeast of Tutuila and about 50 nautical miles west of the Manu’a island group and heading eastward towards Manu’a at 7mph.

“The storm is slowly moving away from Tutuila and Aunu’u and if the storm stays on its current course, its forecast to be about 20 miles north of Ta’u island (Manu’a) around 6a.m. today (Tuesday),” said Mase.

With the tropical cyclone moving away from Tutuila, the gale wind warning has been cancelled for Tutuila and Aunu’u as of 1:15a.m. (Tuesday), said Mase, who advised the public that high surf warning for all shores of the territory remains in effect.

Forecasters cautioned that American Samoa is still not fully in the clear and urged residents of Tutuila and Aunu’u tol remain cautious until the all clear signal is given that the storm has fully moved away from the Manu’a island group.

Two residents on Ta’u island contacted by phone from Tutuila around 1:30a.m. say so far the storm is uneventful.

“Winds are calm and no rain,” said one of the resident.

UPDATE 01/21/13 7:00 PM  — Wind speed has started to pick up in the Manu’a island group, as Tropical Cyclone Garry nears American Samoa, say two individuals via telephone from Ta’u island.

Manu’a is expected to get the brunt of the storm, according to the National Weather Service in Tafuna.

Meteorologist Mase Akapo with the weather service, says the current track of the Category One storm as of 6p.m. is about 120 nautical miles northwest of Manu’a and moving at about 7mph. On its current track, the storm is expected to come closest to the Manu’a islands by tomorrow morning with winds of 60-70mph.

“The storm continues to intensify” as it moves near the territory, said Mase.
A storm warning is in effect for the Manu’a island and a gale wind warning for the rest of the territory .

A resident of Faleasao village reached by phone from Tutuila said their village mayor walked the village after 1p.m. today to alert residents to start preparations as the storm was heading towards American Samoa.

“Since then people have been boarding up their homes, buying necessary items such as canned food, chips and bottled water,” said the female resident, who asked not be identified by name.

A resident on Ofu island says winds didn’t start picking up until around 4p.m. and residents are now moving towards preparations for high winds.

None of the radio stations from Tutuila are heard on Manu’a so residents depend on their families on Tutuila as well as their own village mayor for weather information. Certain areas of Manu’a pick up the KVZK-TV telecast from Tutuila.

SCHOOL CLOSINGS

In a statement released around 2:45 a.m. today, Department of Education director-appointee Dr. Salu Hunkin-Finau announced that all public schools in the territory will be closed today (Tuesday, January 22) “due to unstable weather conditions”.
With school closure, students “will stay home.”

“However, all public school teachers and administrators are to report to school to prepare classrooms and school buildings, and school will resume on Wednesday,” she said in the statement released thru the Territorial Emergency Management Coordinating Office (TEMCO).

The statement comes almost three hours after the National Weather Service downgraded the gale wind warning to a wind advisory for Tutuila and Aunu’u as Tropical Storm Garry moves slowly east-south-west to the Manu’a island group.

No word yet from private schools as of 3 a.m. today

UPDATE: 01/21/13 1:08 PM — The National Weather Service Pago Pago is reporting Garry (09f) intensifying and moving southeast in the direction of Manu'a by this evening

At 1:08 PM (American Samoa time), Tropical Cyclone Tropical Cyclone was centered near 12.5 south 170.6 west or about 80 nautical miles southwest of Swains island, 100 nautical miles north of Tutuila and about 120 nautical miles northwest of Manua moving southeast at 7 kt.

The estimated radius of gale force winds from the center of Garry is about 50 nautical miles within the south quadrants and 40 nautical miles within the north quadrants.

Expect gale force winds to reach Tutuila and Aunuu late this afternoon into tonight and gale to storm force winds to reach Manua this evening into Tuesday morning.

A storm warning is in effect for Manua.  A gale warning remains in effect for Tutuila, Aunuu and Swains Island.

A high surf advisory remains in effect for north facing shores. The harbor master advises small craft should remain in port. 

Winds on Tutuila and Aunuu are east 15 to 25 mph increasing to 30 to 40 mph before sunset today. On Monday night, southeast winds 40 to 50 mph will turn southwest 50 to 60 mph on Tuesday. 

On Manua, east winds 15 to 25 mph increasing to 30 to 40 mph before sunset. On Monday night, east winds 45 to 60 mph turning southeast 60 to 70 mph on Tuesday. 

On Swains, northwest winds 35 to 45 mph. On Monday night, northwest winds 25 to 40 mph.

The next update will be issued by the National Weather Service in Pago Pago at 3 pm or sooner if conditions warrant.

UPDATE 01/21/13 8:00 AM — Tropical Cyclone Garry is forecast to near American Samoa’s main island of Tutuila sometime this evening as the Department of Education calls for teachers and administrators to report to their respective public schools to secure classrooms.

As of 6:30a.m. today, the storm was centered about 135 nautical miles north of Tutuila and moving south-southeast at 7mph, said Mase Akapo, the meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Tafuna.

If the storm stays on its current track, Mase said the cyclone will come close to Tutuila tonight and the Manu’a island group by tomorrow. He said winds for Tutuila are expected to pick up this afternoon at 20 to 30 miles per hour and increased tonight into tomorrow morning at 45 to 60 mph.

He said winds are expected to be stronger for Manu’a as the storm heads closer to the island group.

According to Mase, the storm continues to intensify as it continues on its current path and the radius will also expand.

“Tropical Cyclone Garry will come close to Tutuila tonight and the Manu’a islands by tomorrow morning heading into the afternoon with stronger winds,” said Mase, who noted again, that the storm is expected to come close to the Manu’a islands tomorrow.

As the storm continues to intensify, the DOE director-appointee Dr. Salu Hunkin-Finau has called on all public school teachers and administrators to report to their respective schools to being preparations for securing classrooms.

UPDATE 01/21/13 6:00 AM — Tropical Cyclone Garry (09f) was centered near 12.1 south 171.2 west at 6:00am this morning, Jan. 21 (American Samoa time) or about 60 nautical miles south of Swains Island, 135 nautical miles north of Tutuila and about 165 nautical miles northwest of Manua. 

Cyclone Garry is moving south-southeast at 7 kt. The estimated radius of gale force winds from the center of the cyclone is about 35 nautical miles. The National Weather Service advises American Samoa to expect gale force winds to reach Tutuila and Manua Monday afternoon to evening.

UPDATE 01/21/13 12:30 AM — Fiji Met Service in Nadi, has upgraded the storm that forecasters in the region have been tracking over the weekend to a tropical cyclone.

As of 12:15a.m. today (Monday, Jan. 21 in American Samoa), Tropical Cyclone Garry was centered about 40 nautical miles south of Swains islands, 190 miles north-northwest of Tutuila and 218 miles northwest of Manu’a, moving east-southeast at 14-mph, according to the update from the National Weather Service in Pago Pago.

The weather update also says that the estimated radius of gale force winds from the center of the cyclone is about 45 nautical miles. Forecasters is expecting gale force winds to reach Tutuila and Manu’a by this afternoon into the evening.

A gale wind warning and a storm watch remain in effect for all islands of the territory and small crafts have been urged to remain in port. The Port of Pago Pago, remains closed since yesterday per directive of the U.S. Coast Guard.  This weather report will be updated as information becomes available.

UPDATE 01/20/13 6 PM —  A tropical depression, now northwest of Savai’i island in neighboring Samoa continues to move eastward to American Samoa’s main island of Tutuila, as of 6p.m. today (Sunday). The storm is now forecasted to come close to Tutuila by noon tomorrow.

National Weather Service in Tafuna says that as of 6p.m. the storm was centered about 260 nautical miles northwest of Tutuila and moving east-northeast at 14-mph. If it continues on this eastward track after this evening the storm would be about 150 nautical miles northwest of Tutuila by 1p.m. tomorrow (Monday)

The storm has yet to be named and its not clear yet if it will make landfall on TutuilaWith the storm moving closer to Tutuila, the weather service has issued a storm watch as well as gale wind warning for all islands of the territory. A high surf advisory is in effect for all north facing shores

According to forecasters, northeast winds this evening is at 15 to 20-mph increase to 20 to 30 mph after midnight. By tomorrow morning northeast winds will increase to 30 to 40 mph. It will increase further by Monday afternoon at 50 to 55-mph.

Authorities in the territory is advising residents to remain on alert, keep listening to local broadcaster and secure loose items as necessary. Additionally be ready to comply with any orders that are issued by emergency management officials, according to the weather service bulletin.

Local Department of Homeland Security’s Territorial Emergency Management Coordinating Office had been advising the public thru local broadcasters to prepare for disasters as they monitor the storm:

• Make sure your yard is free of loose debris
• Take necessary precautions to secure your home and belongings

• There will be heavy rain fall, so prepare in case of flooding or landslides

• If you live near a stream, make sure it is free flowing or naturally flowing to avoid flooding

Don't forget your Emergency Supply Kit which should include 1 gallon of water per person per day; a radio with new batteries;  a flashlight with new batteries (Candles, lanterns); food; First Aid Kit and medication

• Report any landslides, flooding or other emergencies that need assistance to the EOC at 699-3800, or call 911.

Update— 1/20/13 3 PM — Forecasters in American Samoa are predictinhe impact of a tropical depression  located west of Pago Pago on Sunday afternoon will be felt by tomorrow (Monday) afternoon while the U.S. Coast Guard has closed the Port of Pago Pago in advance of the system.

Carol Baqui, a general forecaster at the National Weather Service in Tafuna says the storm remains a tropical depression, with gale force winds of 40 to 50 mph, and was located about 310 nautical miles northwest of the main island of Tutuila around 1p.m. today (Sunday).

Forecasters in Pago Pago are awaiting word from Fiji met-service, who will name the storm and upgrade it to a tropical cyclone when appropriate.

“We are forecasting the impact of this storm by tomorrow afternoon (Monday local time) into the evening,” Baqui told Samoa News in a brief phone interview.

A gale watch remains in effect for the territory as the storm heads towards the Samoan islands at 12-mph. On its current course and movement, forecasters expect the storm to be about 110 nautical miles northwest of Tutuila island by 7a.m. tomorrow.

Winds are also expected to pick up tomorrow morning at 30 to 40-mph shifting 50 to 55 mph in the afternoon.

Weather service in Fiji is forecasting the storm to come closer to Upolu island in Samoa overnight tonight then move slightly to the north of Tutuila by tomorrow afternoon, according to forecasters in Pago Pago. They also say that strong gale and storm force winds are expected to impact the territory’s weather conditions during the next 24 to 36 hours.

As the storm heads closer, the U.S. Coast Guard early this afternoon issued a notice which closes Pago harbor, saying that a safety zone has been established at all coastal inlets. Additionally, commercial vessels are prohibited from entering the Port of Pago Pago without the express permission of the Captain of the Port.

All pleasure craft are prohibited from operating seaward of the boundary line and are advised to seek safe havens.

The notice also states that all oceangoing commercial vessels and oceangoing barges greater than 200 gross tons that have not received Captain of the Port authorization to remain in port “must department the port immediately.”

Sunday, Jan. 20 2013 6AM — The National Weather Service in American Samoa has issued a gale watch for the entire territory as a tropical depression was located about 305 miles west of Pago Pago as of 6a.m. today, Sunday in the territory.

The weather service says the storm continues to move towards the Samoan islands and expected to be about 145 nautical miles northwest of Pago Pago by 1a.m. tomorrow, local time.

Forecasters say the storm will continue to intensify and will likely be named before the end of today. Additionally, the story has reached gale force winds near the center as it continues to move eastward at 10mph.

As a precaution, authorities have called on boat owners and captains of small craft to determine the best strategy for securing their craft. Residents are also asked to take this opportunity to review their hurricane disaster plan, while the storm is further away from the territory.

In Samoa, where it's Monday, the country’s weather service has  issued gale and flood and landslide warnings due to moderate to heavy rain at times because of  the storm, according to Radio New Zealand International.

A senior forecaster at the Fiji met service, Amit Singh, says early this morning the system is  gradually intensifying, “and we expect it to become a cyclone by tonight, when it will be located north of Samoa,” reports RNZI.

Singh says the system is expected to remain a category three cyclone before heading to the Southern Cook Islands.

Samoa News will update this online story as new information becomes available from the weather service and other local authorities.

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