Tonga lashed by Cyclone Ian
The Kingdom of Tonga was lashed by a powerful cyclone on Saturday (Tonga time), causing damage but there were no immediate reports of injuries in the heavily populated northern islands.
A state of emergency was declared for two of Tonga's three island groups, Vava'u and Ha'apai, on Saturday morning as category-five storm Cyclone Ian brought heavy rain and strong winds forecast to gust at up to 287 kilometers (178 miles) per hour, the Matangi Tonga news website said.
The storm was later downgraded from the top of the scale of destructive cyclones to category four, with gusts of up to 250 kph (155 mph).
The main island of Tongatapu appears to have avoided the worst of the storm.
"We have received a damage report from the island of Hunga and our team are still out trying to get a feel, but there doesn't appear to have been much damage in Vava'u at the moment," Tonga's Director of Emergencies Leveni Aho told the website.
Aho advised against travel between Tongan islands during the storm and urged residents of outer islands to stay put.
LOCAL WEATHER UPDATE
In American Samoa the National Weather Service in Pago Pago has cancelled the Gale Watch for the islands of Tutuila, Aunu’u and Manu’a including its costal waters, as Tropical Cyclone Ian is directly impacting the Tongan islands.
Meteorologist Carol Baqui with the Weather Service told Samoa News around 2:36a.m. today (Friday) that a wind advisory remains in effect for the Samoan islands until 6p.m.
“There are still strong winds impacting American Samoa especially at high elevations and the reason for the wind advisory,” she said, adding that northwest winds of 25 to 35mph are affecting the territory.
Forecasters say that winds this strong can make driving difficult especially for high profile vehicles; therefore use extra caution.
For the costal areas of the territory, forecasters are predicting waves of 9 to 12 feet and residents are cautioned to stay out of the water until the weather improves. Samoa News, however, witnessed around 2a.m. this morning, a handful of residents along the shoreline at low tide - going out fishing.
The Weather Office in Pago Pago cancelled the Gale Watch around 11:55 p.m. last night (Thursday) as Tropical Cyclone Ian was about 350 nautical miles southwest of Pago Pago moving southeast at 6mph.
However, forecasters say a monsoon trough near the Samoan islands will continue to trigger rain and gusty winds over the next couple of days.
Samoa News is still receiving reports of “very strong winds” in the airport area and from residents living along the mountain sides.
Meanwhile, the American Samoa Department of Homeland Security/TEMCO reminds the public that a ‘high surf advisory’ remains in effect and all are advised to take extra precautions and stay away from shorelines.
“Swells, high surf and breaking waves may unexpectedly wash over certain shoreline areas,” according to a TEMCO bulletin, which also noted that a ‘small craft advisory also remains in effect.
“Fishing or wave watching along coastal areas is extremely dangerous and the public is advised to exercise extreme caution. The public is also advised to drive your vehicles with caution along affected coastal shoreline areas,” it says.
Samoa News will update this online story, when there are new developments in the weather.