14 Feb 2010

Cyclone Rene forecast to wreak havoc on Tonga tomorrow

7:18 pm on 14 February 2010

Regional weather forecasters say they expect the intensifying Tropical Cyclone Rene to cause destruction for Tonga from early tomorrow.

Cyclone Rene, which is now a category 3 cyclone, has passed Samoa where it brought high winds to the south east of the country early today.

Rene was about 200 kilometres northwest of Niue and was moving on a southwest track at 26 kilometres an hour at around 5pm (Niue time).

A forecaster from the Fiji Meteorological Service, Alipate Waqaicelua, says the cyclone is heading directly for central Tonga where it's expected to pass over from early tomorrow.

"It's going to be very close to the Ha'apai group, almost over Nomuka and Tongatapu group. Either way, if it maintains its intensity and track, it's going to cause at least severe damage."

Alipate Waqaicelua says expects Cyclone Rene will probably reach category four when it is over Tonga.

Asked if there was a chance the cyclone could change track or lose intensity before reaching Tonga, he said the conditions render this less likely.

It's a very definite track, It hasn't wavered from it. There are still favourable conditions to the south of it. Intensity-wise, it's bound to increase further. Swaying away from its current track, it's also a bit unlikely at this stage. If it does, so much the better.

Alipate Waqaicelua says winds could reach 200 kilometres an hour, with gusts approaching 300 kilometres an hour.