South Pacific, Vanuatu: Cyclone Donna creates uncertainty

Severe Tropical Cyclone Donna has intensified to a category three and while Vanuatu may be lucky to avoid the worse of the wild weather, it remains a very serious situation.

Published 6 years ago, updated 4 years ago

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A great deal of uncertainty surrounds the movement of Donna over the next 48 hours, however, it is expected to hit further west of Vanuatu than initially thought.

MetService lead Meteorologist Mark Todd said there is however a small chance the cyclone, which may cause winds to gust up to 250km/h according to the Joint Typhoon Warning Centre, will track closer to the island.

“We will have to sit tight to see how it plays out,” he said.

WeatherWatch said Donna is expected to turn south overnight and continue tracking southwards, west of the island, over the next three days. Should it continue tracking like that, most of the severe weather will hopefully remain at sea.

However, an earlier turn to tracking south would make Vanuatu far more vulnerable to damage and severe weather and may put some populated places right in the path of the cyclone.

“Either way, this remains a serious set-up for Vanuatu,” said WeatherWatch.

“It’s still absolutely vital those in Vanuatu remain ready for severe weather.”

Dangerous, damaging seas with wave heights over seven metres are expected to hang around for days, even if the centre of the cyclone tracks further offshore.

Coastal damage could also still be significant in low-lying areas.

“So the further away [the cyclone is] the better,” said Todd.

WeatherWatch said as, with any tropical cyclone and such small islands to focus on, there is plenty of uncertainty about its exact track, and therefore it is difficult to tell who may be impacted and when.

“As we saw recently with Cyclone Cook storms like this can jog west or east further than expected and, over time, a small jog in one direction can have great consequences down the track.”

Meanwhile, aid agencies including the Red Cross have started to arrive or are heading to Vanuatu.

A red alert was activated in Torba province this morning and a yellow alert for Sanma province.

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