Donna now Category 5 cyclone; wind gusts up to 300km/h

Severe Tropical Cyclone Donna has been upgraded to a Category 5 system. Currently, it is about offshore, 295km off Malakula, and 370km west of Efate. Its offshore trajectory means that Vanuatu’s islands will be spared the full force of the most destructive winds, which are gusting at 300km/h. However, Vanuatu Meteo is taking no chances and is warning of destructive winds up to 160km/h tonight in Sanma, Malampa and Shefa provinces. Heavy rainfall, flooding and storm surges are also likely.

No loss of life or major damage to homes or infrastructure have been reported by Read the rest of this entry »


Cyclone Donna reaches Cat 4 strength offshore: alerts remain in place

TC Donna is now a Category 4 cyclone, with winds at the centre of 165km/h and gusts up to 235km/h. It stretches the full length of the country. Damage to buildings and crops have been reported in the Torres and Banks islands. All domestic flights in the country are cancelled.

Cyclone Donna continues to wobble out at sea, but nevertheless remains extremely dangerous. The track forecast by Vanuatu Meteorology and Geo-hazards Dept shows it weakening and heading away towards New Caledonia. However, the US Navy’s Joint Typhoon Warning Center warns that Cyclone Donna’s full intensity may not be felt for another 48 hours, and its path will remain erratic.

Vanuatu, the Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu, Nauru Palau and the Marshall Islands delivered a hard-hitting joint statement on the plight of West Papua to the 79-member Africa, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States meeting at ministerial level this week in Brussels. Authored by MP Johnny Koanapo, Parliamentary Secretary for the Prime Minister’s Office, the packed council room was trans-fixed as he described Indonesia’s violations and the West Papuan slow-motion genocide. (Daily Post). Read the rest of this entry »

Cyclone Donna turns to southeast; future path and intensity unclear

A school on Vanua Lava damaged by Cyclone Donna. Photo: Joshua Bule/Facebook

A school on Vanua Lava damaged by Cyclone Donna. Photo: Joshua Bule/Facebook

As of the latest cyclone warning #16 from the Vanuatu Meteorology Dept, at 3pm today Category 3 Tropical Cyclone Donna was about 80km NNW of the Torres Islands and 215km NW of Gaua, moving slowly in a southeast direction at 5km/h. Central pressure is 954 hPa. Winds at the centre were estimated to be 145km/h gusting to 205km/h. Schools have been told to close in the northern provinces. The image above shows damage from Cyclone Donna to a school on Vanua Lava.

Most meteorological forecast models predict Cyclone Donna will take a path away from Vanuatu’s islands and will weaken over the next three days as it heads southeast. However, this cyclone is very slow moving and could change direction and intensity at any time, so please prepare for the worst. This is still a very dangerous cyclone, and it will bring destructive storm surges, flooding and heavy rain even if it doesn’t make landfall. We’ll keep you updated here. Read the rest of this entry »

[Updated] Arrival of Severe Tropical Cyclone Donna imminent: Torba province now on Red Alert

Latest composite satellite image of Cyclone Donna from Japan Meteorological Agency/US NOAA

Latest composite satellite image of Cyclone Donna from Japan Meteorological Agency/US NOAA

[Updated 9:30pm 4/5] Severe Tropical Cyclone Donna (Category 3) is currently 170km NE of the Torres Islands, 175km N of Vanua Lava and tracking WNW at 12km/h. It is predicted to make first landfall in northern Vanuatu as a Category 3 system tomorrow morning, May 5.

A Red Alert has been issued for Torba Province by the Vanuatu Meteorology and Geohazards Department. A Yellow Alert is current for Sanma and Penama provinces and a Blue Alert for Malampa province. Flash flooding and phenomenal seas with waves over 10m are expected in Vanuatu waters as Cyclone Donna approaches. Wind speeds in a Category 3 cyclone range between 165 and 224km/h.

The GFS model forecast suggests that Cyclone Donna may make a sharp turn southward within 24-48hrs towards Vanuatu’s central and southern islands, following Vanuatu’s ‘cyclone alley’ — although this could change.

Cyclone Donna is the second tropical cyclone to form in Vanuatu the space of a month, following Cyclone Cook in early April. Vanuatu’s official cyclone season ended on April 30.

We urge our readers to start preparing well ahead of the cyclone’s arrival, and keep visiting Vanuatu Digest for updates.

Vanuatu Meteorology and Geohazards Department has a new website just in time for Cyclone Donna, and VMGD’s cyclone warnings can be found on this page, the cyclone tracking map here, or you can listen to Radio Vanuatu’s frequent updates.

The latest cyclone warning (#10) from VMDG is as follows: Read the rest of this entry »

Cyclone Cook at Category 2 and intensifying; currently west of Efate

Image: Japan Meteorological Agency/NOAA

As predicted, a tropical cyclone – named Cook — formed overnight and is currently positioned just to the north-west of Efate. It has now intensified to a Category 2 storm, and is slowing down, with destructive storm force winds of 95km/h, gusting to 130km/h hitting Efate and islands in the rest of Shefa and Malampa provinces. Gale force winds will continue to affect Sanma, Penama provinces, then later on today, Tafea province too.

Because the cyclone is both intensifying and slowing, residents are advised to take shelter and stay indoors until further notice, as the wind speed may pick up significantly. Flash flooding and power outages have been reported on Efate.

Its Pacific cyclone season – please sign this petition and help save lifesaving shortwave radio to our islands

Animated satellite images taken from March 13 2015. Photo: US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

The ABC’s shortwave radio broadcasts helped many in Vanuatu during Cyclone Pam in 2015.

As you read this, a cyclone is forming east of Vanuatu. As people in Vanuatu are well aware, up-to-date information is critical when preparing for a natural disaster.

Unfortunately, in the middle of the Pacific cyclone season, Australia’s national broadcaster, the ABC, says it will end shortwave radio broadcasts to the Pacific Islands by 31st January.

This decision puts lives at risk in Vanuatu and the rest of the Pacific. The ABC’s shortwave service provide lifesaving information during cyclones and other disasters as well as playing an important role in ensuring media freedom. Here in Vanuatu, during Cyclone Pam in 2015, ABC shortwave broadcasts helped people outside of the range of FM radio and cellular phone towers keep up to date with cyclone warnings. The service undoubtedly helped ni-Vanuatu people prepare and may have even saved lives.

The Pacific Freedom Forum has organised a petition to let decision-makers in Australia know how vital the ABC’s shortwave radio services are for us in the Pacific. Will you please help?

Please click this link to sign the petition.

Thank you.

Cyclone season begins: 2–3 cyclones expected in Vanuatu this season, warns Meteo Dept

Cyclone Pam wind chart

File graphic of 2015’s Cyclone Pam. With 2-3 cyclones predicted for Vanuatu this season, the Vanuatu Meteorological and Geohazards Dept is urging everyone to start their cyclone preparations NOW.

Vanuatu can expect 2 to 3 tropical cyclones in the 2016/2017 cyclone season, according to Vanuatu’s Meteorology and Geohazard Department (VMGD), which is predicting a normal to elevated risk of cyclones passing through the Vanuatu archipelago between now and April 2017.

Under the present weak La Niña conditions, Vanuatu is more likely to experience a Category 3 cyclone, and less likely to experience a Category 4 or 5 cyclone, says VMGD.

However, they emphasise that all communities should stay alert and be well prepared for the possibility of a severe tropical cyclone, and now is the right time to begin preparations.

The current La Niña event is elevating sea surface temperatures in the western Pacific, and this is likely to be Read the rest of this entry »