This image made from a video, shows the Parliament House destroyed by Cyclone Gita in Nuku’alofa, Tonga on 12 February 2018. Photo: Michael Morra / Twitter

By Eric Leister
13 February 2018

(AccuWeather) – Powerful Cyclone Gita caused widespread damage to parts of Samoa and American Samoa last week before targeting Tonga Monday night into Tuesday.

An emergency declaration was made by the governor of American Samoa which was approved by President Donald Trump allowing aid to be distributed to the island territory.

Flooding and power outages were widespread across Tutuila, including the capital of Pago Pago where rainfall in excess of 150 mm (6 inches) was reported.

In Samoa there were no immediate reports of injury or death from the cyclone, according to Radio New Zealand.

More than 350 mm (14 inches) of rain fell in the capital city of Apia from Friday into Saturday. Widespread flooding was reported along with damage to buildings from strong winds. […]

Tonga's Parliament House was completely destroyed in the storm's fury, according to the Associated Press.

The Tonga Met office was also damaged, forcing forecasters to take shelter and shift warning responsibilities to the Fiji Met Service.

Widespread damage was reported in the capital of Nuku’alofa including complete destruction of the Parliament House and several churches, according to the Associated Press. [more]

Tropical Cyclone Gita leaves trail of destruction from American Samoa to Tonga

Packing sustained winds of 230 kilometers (145 miles) per hour, tropical cyclone Gita slammed into the island nation of Tonga on 12 February 2018. According to initial reports, the category 4 storm caused widespread damage in Tongatapu, the largest and most densely populated of the kingdom’s 169 islands. It struck the Samoan Islands as a category 3 storm the day before. The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra satellite captured this image as the storm bore down on Tonga on February 11, 2018. Photo: Jeff Schmaltz / NASA Earth Observatory

Dr. Jeff Masters
13 February 2018

(Weather Underground) – The most powerful storm in living memory for the South Pacific island nation of Tonga struck on Monday night local time, when the eyewall of Category 4 Tropical Cyclone Gita passed directly over archipelago’s largest and most populous island, Tongatapu. The nation’s capital, Nuku’alofa (population around 24,000), is on the island, and the nation’s Parliament House was destroyed by the storm. According to the write-up on the storm, 30 people were injured by Gita, but no deaths have been reported. Damage was widespread on the island, and it is likely that Gita will be the most damaging weather-related disaster in their history (current record: $71 million in damage in 2018 dollars from Tropical Cyclone Waka of 2001). A Facebook page called Tonganow - Online Community for Tongans is sharing initial damage photos, which include downed trees and power lines and roof damage. Newshub (New Zealand) shared Facebook reports of flooding at the Vaiola Hospital on the coast in Nuku'alofa.

On 9 February 2018, Gita pounded American Samoa, where a state of emergency has been declared by President Trump. This frees up disaster assistance money. Public schools have been shut down for the week, and damage is substantial on the island of 50,000 residents.

Unusually warm waters fueled Gita; next target: New Zealand

Sea surface temperatures (SSTs) are typically near their warmest point of the year in February across the South Pacific, and were in the range of 28-29°C (82-84°F) in the area that Gita traversed as it neared Tonga, which was about 1°C above average (Figure 1).

As of 1500Z Tuesday (4 am Wednesday Tonga time), Gita had weakened to a Category 3 cyclone on the Saffir-Simpson scale, with top winds of 125 mph. Satellite loops showed that Gita was still a large and impressive system with a prominent eye, but the cyclone was under high wind shear of 25 – 30 knots, which was distorting the cloud pattern. Gita is predicted to steadily weaken as it arcs toward the west and eventually southwest. Gita should bypass other major island groups from here on out, but the storm or its remnants is likely to bring very heavy rain to the North Island of New Zealand on Monday. Record-warm warm SSTs off the west coast of New Zealand, which helped bring the country its warmest month in recorded history last month, will supply an unusually rich source of moisture for ex-Gita’s rains over New Zealand. This will be the second strong remnant tropical cyclone to affect New Zealand this season. The extratropical remnants of Tropical Cyclone Fehi brought significant flooding rains to New Zealand January 31 – February 2, resulting in tens of millions in damage, according to insurance broker Aon Benfield. Auckland, New Zealand has had triple its usual rainfall so far in 2018.

Tonga’s tropical cyclone history

Tonga consists a far-flung collection of 169 islands spanning roughly 500 miles from north to south. On average, about one tropical cyclone a year affects some part of Tonga, but Gita is by far the strongest on record to make a direct hit on the main island of Tongapatu. At landfall, the Joint Typhoon Warning Center (JTWC) pegged Gita’s top winds averaged over a 1-minute period at 145 mph, making it a Category 4 on the Saffir-Simpson scale (or a Category 5 on the alternative scale used in the Southwest Pacific). The central pressure of Gita as it approached Tonga was estimated by the Fiji Meteorological Service to be 930 mb.

The most destructive cyclone in Tonga’s history was Category 4 Tropical Cyclone Waka of 2001, which did $71 million in damage (2018 dollars.) [more]

Damage Heavy on Tonga After Category 4 Tropical Cyclone Gita Hits


  1. Anonymous said...

    "An emergency declaration was made by the governor of American Samoa which was approved by President Donald Trump allowing aid to be distributed to the island territory."

    Let's see how long that will last. Trump has a proven history of total disregard for other 'colored people' even if they are Americans. And hurricanes? blah... in Trump's mind, they're not that bad. A little rain, a little wind damage, get over it...

    I would not want to be one of those who are still having to wait on Trump and his Administration to "send aid" for anything even remotely related to climate change or just a plain old weather disaster. You're definitely on your own.

    Sigh... how much longer do we will have to be saddled with this twittering train wreck?  


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