The key message with every cyclone season is to be vigilant and that message was reiterated by the Director of Niue Meteorology Department Mrs. Rossy Mitiepo at a meeting with the Village Councils and civil society groups last week.
Mrs. Mitiepo told BCN news that for Niue, especially for the western side of the island, even low-pressure systems can produce high swells with impacts likened to that of a category 1 or 2 cyclone.
“We have seen the impacts from previous cyclones in the last two years, for example, cyclone Tino and cyclone Zasu last year. The four-metre-high swells ripped out the west coast”.
Mrs Mitiepo says that for Niue, even a low-pressure system such as what happened on Tuesday last week, can have cyclone-like impacts.
“These systems can cause impacts that are likened to a category 1 or 2 cyclone and for us to be mindful of the low-pressure system because they can generate three-metre-high swells or more than that”.
Rossy Mitiepo explains that while the cyclone prediction for Niue this season is normal to low because of La Nina or the El Nino Southern Oscillation status for the Southwest Pacific, the intensity of those cyclones predicted for Niue is a category 4 or the highest category 5 impact.
“Out of the two cyclones, we could get a severe cyclone, up to a category 4 or the highest category 5 in terms of its impact, likened to the one in 2004, cyclone Heta”.
The message to the village councils and the public is to pay attention, always check the weather forecast and marine forecasts for the seas and the high swells.
Rossy Mitiepo explains that depending on the cyclone path or direction of the cyclones, certain areas of the island are more vulnerable than others.
“If any cyclone is coming down from the northwest or from Samoa or from Fiji and from Tonga, we are likely to be in a very critical state, especially for the low lying villages on the west coast from sea surge and high swells” says Mrs Mitiepo.
Most vulnerable to high swells are the villages on the west coast of the island including the village of Alofi North. Having designated cyclone shelters or evacuation centres and knowing where they are, are critical to village plans.
The Alofi North Village Council Chairperson Emani Fakaotimanava-Lui was at the meeting and told BCN news that his village is as prepared as possible and attending the meeting will provide more information to help with his village cyclone preparedness plans.
“We’re as prepared as much as possible but it is good to have better guidance”.
Mr Fakaotimanava-Lui is new to the role of chairperson of the Council but he says that they will be holding village meetings to ensure the people are prepared and are aware of the evacuation centres should they need to evacuate during a cyclone.
If the path of an approaching cyclone is from the eastern side then the impact will not be as severe because the villages on the eastern coast of the island are located further from the coast.
“If the cyclone comes on the eastern side, the western side is more sheltered but the eastern side will be affected, but we are also mindful that the population or the residential areas are quite far from the sea”.
The key message from the Director of Niue Met Office, Mrs Rossy Mitiepo is to remain vigilant. “Remain vigilant and listen out to the radio notices or notices on social media and also on TV for the weather forecasts and strong wind warnings. If there is a warning or a depression nearby, pay attention and action your own precautionary measures for your village or your household”.
There are twelve cyclones predicted for the Pacific region this cyclone season and one or two are predicted for Niue, with intensity predicted at a category 4 or 5 being the highest cyclone category.