Cook Islands Braces For Approaching Tropical Storm

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Pacific Islands Development Program, East-West Center With Support From Center for Pacific Islands Studies, University of Hawai‘i

Soon to be cyclone moving towards Rarotonga

By Rashneel Kumar

RAROTONGA, Cook Islands (Cook Islands News, Jan. 154 2016) – Cook Islanders have been warned to brace themselves for a "worst case scenario" as a tropical depression moving towards Rarotonga is expected to turn into a tropical cyclone by later today.

Cook Islands Meteorological Service (CIMS) director Arona Ngari told CI News yesterday that TD 8F was slow-moving with an average wind of 25 knots at its centre.

Those winds were expected to intensify to 35 knots after midnight last night.

Ngari said the low depression system was expected to be given a name by today, upgrading it to a tropical cyclone.

"Right now, the two islands that are under threat are Palmerston and probably Rarotonga."

Palmerston is expected to face the brunt of the storm by tomorrow and Rarotonga by Friday.

"It is slow-moving, indicating that it’s building up so there is certainly room for intensification."

Seas in the vicinity of the Cook Islands were 30 degrees Celsius, an ideal temperature for a cyclone to form, he said.

The Met Service could not yet gauge the strength of the forming tropical cyclone but was asking island residents to get ready for the worst.

"The best we can do is prepare for the worst case scenario. It could develop rapidly or it could develop slowly, only time can tell. All we can do is encourage people to prepare themselves."

Yesterday, most boat owners in Rarotonga were busy moving their vessels to safe ground after receiving the warning from the weather office.

Cook Islands Ports Authority habour master Saungaki Rasmussen sent out an advisory to harbour users, notifying them of the bad weather on the way.

He asked marina users to pull their boats out of the water for safe keeping until the low system had passed to avoid strain and damage to the marina’s main anchor chain.

"A strong wind warning was issued for the southern Cook Islands as a result of the low pressure system north of Aitutaki moving southward toward Rarotonga," Rasmussen said in the advisory.

"It is predicted the wind will gust up to 52 knot from the north and the swell will reach six metres when the low pressure passes Rarotonga.

"Therefore, I would like to ask all boat owners to ensure that the captains and crew of your vessels are briefed on the severe weather conditions and the likelihood that the harbour will be vacated during such time to mitigate damage to the vessels and infrastructure.

"Please have loose items around your area (shed) moved or secured in preparation for the severe weather that will be affecting us in the coming days."

Emergency Management Cook Islands director Charles Carlson said his organisation was closely monitoring the system and would take necessary action if required.

He met with the Police Commissioner Maara Tetava and Ngari yesterday to discuss the situation.

"The CIMS will continue with their special weather bulletin on the radio and CITV and we urge everyone to be prepared for this," Carlson said.

"Everyone should have been prepared for it as we are well into the cyclone season. If this tropical depression turns into a tropical cyclone, we will be calling a meeting of key stakeholders to decide on the action to be taken as a nation.

"Meanwhile, we will continue monitoring this here in Rarotonga and also what is happening in the outer islands.

"The good news, it will bring plenty of rain to the island as the island is getting very desperate for water.

"So perhaps it’s a blessing in disguise."

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