Cyclone Winston threatens Tonga, despite swaying towards Fiji

Tropical Cyclone Winston has changed tracks and made a U-turn today Thursday 18 at 12pm north of Vavaʻu group and on its current track it was swaying towards Fiji group.

However because of its extreme force and size met services predictions show the cyclone may still significantly  impact the Vavaʻu group.

Weather Watch New Zealand said: “Winston is a major storm and poses a direct threat to the small islands around Tonga”.

Tonga Met Services said “a storm warning is now in force for Vava’u”.

Winston was expected to move  North East of Neiafu  at 7am tomorrow morning (19/02/2016), it said.

On Monday it arrived in Tonga as Category 2 cyclone and it  left trail of destruction in the Group.

It caused major  flooding in Tongatapu and several trees were blown down. It did similar damage to Ha’apai islands.

Winston battered  Vava’u on Tuesday  wrecking homes, cutting power and smashing vehicles.

The extent of the destruction however according to our correspondent in Vava’u was moderate.

Tonga Met Services said today Thursday 18 at 1.40pm severe Cyclone Winston was located near the East South East of Niuatoputapu or East North East of Neiafu, Vava’u.

It is now moving  slowly west north west of Vava’u at 4km/hr (2knots).

On its current track it was expected Winston would arrive close to Fiji’s island of Lakeba on Saturday 20 at 12pm.

Tonga Met Service said:

“Situation: Severe Tropical Cyclone Winston category 4 was located near 17.0 South and 170.8 West  or about 340km East-Southeast of Niuatoputapu or 380km East-Northeast of Neiafu (Vavaʻu)  at 12:00pm this afternoon. The cyclone is slowly moving west-northwest at 4km/hr (2knots). On its current track,the cyclone is expected to lie about 210km northeast of Neiafu or 180km southeast of Niuatoputapu at 7am tomorrow morning (19/02/2016). Near its centre,the cyclone is estimated to have an average winds speed of 165km/hr (90knots) with momentary gust of 230km/hr(125knots)”.

Met said  a storm warning is now in force for Vava’u.

A gale warning is now in force for Niua Toputapu and Ha’apai.

A gale alert is now in force for Niuafo’ou, Tongatapu and ‘Eua.

A strong wind warnings remain in force for Niuafo’ou, Ha’api, Tongatapu and ‘Eua.

A heavy damaging swell warning remains inforce for all Tonga coastal waters.

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