Tuesday 23 February 2016

Cyclone headed for New Zealand

Cyclone Winston headed for New Zealand

Cyclone Winston image handed out by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

23 February, 2016

A cyclone that has devastated Fiji could slowly make its way to New Zealand next week - but scientists say it'll be much weaker by the time it arrives.

Cyclone Winston made landfall late on Saturday as the most powerful storm in Fiji's history, delivering gusts as high as 325km/h.

At least 29 people are now confirmed dead and four still missing in the aftermath of category five Cyclone Winston, according to Fiji's national broadcaster.

Aid groups and government authorities are racing to deal with a critical need for clean water, health supplies and emergency accommodation after powerlines, roads, jetties and homes were destroyed and damaged across the island nation.

Scientists at NIWA now say they're more confident that the storm is headed New Zealand's way, saying the likelihood was at a medium level.

Meteorologist Ben Noll said if the storm arrived, downpours could be expected in the North Island early next week.

"This may result in localised instances of flooding and slips, especially in low-lying and poor drainage areas," he said.

"The actual remnants of Winston could arrive during the early stages of next week, bringing a period of heavy rain, strong, gusty wind, and rough surf, most likely to the North Island."

Weatherwatch said the storm had been downgraded to a category three on Tuesday and would be significantly weaker if it reached New Zealand next week.

"If Winston does hit the North Island directly it will not be as a tropical cyclone, nor would it be on a storm scale anywhere close to what Fiji had," it said.

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