Tropical Cyclone Hola was officially named on Tuesday as it attained sufficient wind strength to pose a threat.
It developed while over Vanuatu, but only reached peak intensity on Friday, over open waters further west.
Although Vanuatu suffered some wind damage in the form of roofs ripped off buildings and some trees down, causing one death, wind was not really the problem. A slow-moving tropical cyclone delivers rivers of rain straight from the sky. Flooding and landslides then do the damage.
On the volcanic island of Ambae, in the north of the Vanuatu archipelago, 330mm of rain fell in three days. More recently, in the south at White Grass Airport, the rain gauge read 240mm.
The current track of Tropical Cyclone Hola is parallel to, yet between, the two island chains of Vanuatu and New Caledonia. This puts the Loyalty Islands, home to only 20,000 people, in the path of the eye of the cyclone.
Saturday will be especially dangerous as Hola traverses the islands from north to south. It will still be the equivalent of a category one hurricane, as internationally measured on the Saffir-Simpson scale. This is reflected by a more local classification as a category 2 to 3 cyclone. The New Caledonia government has issued the maximum alert for residents of Loyalty Islands.
Wind speeds of 125km/h and torrential rain – potentially 250mm in a day – both pose threats.
By Monday, the remains of Hola will likely hit New Zealand’s North Island. This will be the third deluge for New Zealand from a tropical cyclone in 6 weeks.
SOURCE: AL JAZEERA AND NEWS AGENCIES