2016-2017 Cyclone Season predicted to be “average”

Published: 14 November 2016 4:05 CET

The Red Cross Movement in the Pacific is busy preparing for the upcoming cyclone season with a series of pre-disaster meetings and pre-positioning of stocks.

The 2016-17 season, which runs from November to April, is predicted to be average with an elevated risk for Tonga, Papua New Guinea, Niue and the Solomon Islands. Reduced risk is expected for Tuvalu.

According to the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA), the region can expect eight to 10 tropical cyclones this season, compared with 18 last season.

For the upcoming season, at least six storms are anticipated to reach Category 3 or greater, with four of those possibly reaching Category 4 strength or above (with wind speeds of at least 159kmh). Category 5 strength storms (winds greater than 196kmh) are also known to occur during seasons like the current one, so all communities should remain alert and prepared for serious events.

“October was a key month for preparedness, with many Pacific Red Cross National Societies holding refresher trainings and ensuring relief stocks were replenished,” says Stephanie Zoll, Disaster Risk Management coordinator for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) in Suva.

“We are also holding pre-disaster meetings with individual National Societies, and started with the Solomon Islands in October,” she says. “Pacific-wide cyclone preparedness was a key topic at the Red Cross Movement Cooperation meeting in Nadi in early November and IFRC is also a member of the Pacific Humanitarian Team chaired by the United Nations.”

This cyclone season, two to three cyclones can be expected for Tonga, Fiji, Vanuatu, New Caledonia and Niue. One to two cyclones can be expected for Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, Samoa, Tokelau, and the southern Cook Islands.

Cameron Vudi, Disaster Risk Management manager for the Solomon Islands Red Cross Society says the pre-disaster meeting was vital. “It involved key Government partners such as the National Disaster Management Office, Ministry of Health, Meteorological Service and most in-country non-government organisations. This will help us respond in a timely and well-coordinated manner to help those severely affected by any disaster,” he says.  

NIWA says the Tropical Cyclones this season will be more linear than last season, so instead of weaving around the Pacific in the manner of Tropical Cyclone Winston, they will probably head across or down to the south.