Cyclone Gita heads for Tonga

Samoa declares state of disaster over tropical cyclone

A state of emergency has been declared in Tonga, and there's worry and uncertainty as the Kingdom braces for cyclone Gita.

Cyclone Gita is now a Category 4 but could become a Category 5 when it hits Tonga about 7pm tonight.

These "wobbles" are unpredictable, as we saw with Category 5 Cyclone Winston in 2016 which at the last hour wobbled off the forecast track and ended up making landfall in Fiji instead of remaining just out at sea. Reliable models are showing the storm reaching New Zealand anywhere from this Sunday to next Wednesday with varying intensity.

The cyclone has already created havoc in neighbouring Samoa and is threatening to become a Category Five superstorm as it approaches Tonga.

At the time Government forecaster MetService was slightly more conservative, saying a forecast for Cyclone Gita's trajectory can not be made until at least Sunday February 11.

On its current track, TC Gita was forecast to pass close to or over Tongatapu this morning and met officials said it carried the potential for major destruction and loss of life.

Although the centre of the cyclone will not pass over Viti Levu, people are expected to experience strong winds and heavy rain.

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Tropical Cyclone Gita struck late Friday night into early Saturday.

It's expected to grow into a category-three tropical storm during the westward movement. "We expect around midnight for it to be the closest to the main island and when the winds will be strongest".

For Tongatapu, 'Eua and Ha'apai, winds were expected to get to 150kmh, with momentary gusts of 185kmh.

Tonga's Fua'amotu Weather Forecasting Centre warned residents could expect "very destructive hurricane-force winds". The tropical cyclone could also cause rainfall flooding and inundate coastal areas with storm surge flooding. Many of you are seeing the various models in the public domain, some show a direct hit to New Zealand this Sunday while others show the storm nearly reaching Australia before curving back towards New Zealand next Wednesday.

Fehi hit the West Coast particularly hard at the start of February.

The centre of Cyclone Gita is about 730 kilometres East of Ono-i-Lau.

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