Tropical Cyclone Lola is starting to move over Vanuatu and over the coming days will weaken in intensity as it continues to move south.
Lola reached category 5 yesterday but has since been downgraded to category 4.
MetService meteorologist Mmathatelo Makbadutlane said Lola will continue to track southwestwards and then gradually curve back towards the south to pass over New Caledonia on Friday.
“According to the track map on the Fiji Meteorological website, by the time it reaches that southern part of New Caledonia they’re expecting it to be a category 1,” she said.
Makbadutlane said MetService is keeping a close eye on Lola’s track and expected wind to pick up in the north of New Zealand towards the end of the weekend and the start of next week.
She said Lola may interact with another low-pressure system coming from the Tasman, but by this time Lola would not be a tropical cyclone.
It will be the most intense tropical cyclone in recorded history to form ahead of the official start of the Southern Hemisphere season, which runs from November 1 to April 30, Makgabutlane told the Herald earlier.
A category 4 tropical cyclone is characterised as having “very destructive winds” of up to 279km/h.
Speaking to the Herald from Port Havannah, New Zealander Jeremy Dick said he has been shuttering windows and buildings, tying down loose objects and dragging boats onto the shore. He said people had been given plenty of warning of the coming storm.
“At the moment, everyone is very nervous about the northern islands. You’ve got half-hourly broadcasts on the radio, a tracking map telling you exactly where it’s going and the speed.”
This is the fourth tropical cyclone to hit Vanuatu this year, with Irene hitting in mid-January and twin cyclones Judy and Kevin at the beginning of March.
A Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade spokesperson said officials are monitoring Lola, with 90 New Zealanders registered on SafeTravel as being in Vanuatu.
“Aotearoa New Zealand stands ready to assist our Vanuatu whānau, and to consider to any requests for assistance from the Government of Vanuatu.
“We are sending SafeTravel messaging to New Zealanders registered as being in, or travelling to, Vanuatu. New Zealanders in Vanuatu are advised to follow the advice of the local authorities, including any evacuation orders, seek suitable shelter, and keep their family and friends in New Zealand informed of their safety and wellbeing, including after the cyclone has passed.”
Caitlan Johnston is a breaking news reporter based in Waikato. She joined the Herald in 2022.