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NASA sees Tropical Cyclone Winston U-turn toward Fiji

Tropical Cyclone Winston made a U-turn in the Southern Pacific Ocean just north of Niue, and appears to be headed back toward Fiji.

On  Wednesday, the gale warning for Niue has been cancelled now that Winston has moved west. However, a tropical cyclone alert is in force for Fiji, specifically the Lau group, Taveuni, Lomaiviti group, eastern half of Viti Levu, Kadavu.

The Fiji Meteorological Service said tropical cyclone Winston is now expected to pass over Fiji early Saturday morning.

Close to its centre, the category four cyclone is estimated to have average winds of 175 kilometres an hour and momentary gusts to 250 kilometres an hour according to the latest weather warning from the Fiji Meteorological Service.

Weather reports say destructive winds may begin several hours before the cyclone centre passes over head or nearby.

Fiji’s National Disaster Management Office is urging the public to closely monitor weather reports in response to the movement of Tropical Cyclone Winston.

Ministry of Rural and Maritime Develop and National Disaster Management permanent secretary Meleti Bainimarama said the public should monitor all weather reports and take the necessary precautions now.

“The latest weather report will bring about destructive winds and flash flooding in parts of the central division so Fijians must secure their homes, their properties, their businesses or their livestock”, Bainimarama said.

“Fijians living in flood prone areas should also prepare for evacuation in case of flooding or damage to properties”.

Bainimarama has also called on parents and guardians to monitor the movement of their children and to always monitor their whereabouts.

Mariners and fishermen are urged to refrain from travelling out to sea.

In Tonga warnings remain in effect. A storm warning is in effect for Vava'u and a gale warning is in effect for Niuatoputapu, Ha'apai, Tongatapu and 'Eua.

Tonga's emergency services only just cleared debris from Cyclone Winston's first trip through the northern islands and now they are preparing for worse.

Category four Winston has turned back towards Tonga after passing through the northern islands earlier this week.

Early this morning, the storm was currently around 330 kilometres north-northwest of Niue and 220 kilometres east-southest of Tonga's Niuatoputapu, with winds gusting up to 230 kilometres an hour.

'Atunaisa Taumoepeau from the Tongan Police said emergency services have shifted from response to preparation mode.

“Police and fire services as well as the defence in the northern islands of Vava'u completed clearing the first part of the visting from Hurricane Winston earlier this week. What we are focused on now is to prepare for a stronger hurricane.”

Acting Superintendent Taumoepeau said there was communication problems during past cyclones and HF and VHF radio links with Vava'u was set up.

At least 63 families in Vava'u and 35 families in Ha'apai are already in shelters according to Tonga police.

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