Cyclone season arrives early in the Pacific as tropical cyclone Raquel threatens the Solomon Islands

Published: 1 July 2015 9:51 CET

By Becky Webb, IFRC

Concerns are mounting as tropical cyclone Raquel continues to bear down on the Solomon Islands, with coastal communities already facing heavy rains and gale force winds. An official tropical cyclone watch was announced by the countries’ Meteorological Service at 7.30 am on 1 July and communities are now being warned of the potential for thunderstorms, sea swells and coastal flooding.

“Tropical cyclone Raquel is now a reality for families living in the Solomon Islands and the next 24 hours will be critical. The Red Cross has been preparing for this eventuality; we have volunteers on standby and relief stocks pre-positioned in country,” said Stephanie Zoll, Pacific regional disaster management coordinator for the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC).

“The Solomon Islands Red Cross is also closely coordinating with the government's Emergency Operations Centre and is ready to support the national response,” she continued.

Red Cross relief stocks are prepositioned for hundreds of families in country, including items such as tarpaulins and shelter tool kits, kitchen sets, water containers and hygiene relief items.

The tropical cyclone watch is currently active for Isabel, Choiseul, Western, Russells, Guadalcanal, Malaita, Makira, Temotu, Rennell and Bellona provinces and the local population is being warned that the extreme weather could pose a threat to lives and properties.

The emergence of tropical cyclone Raquel marks an unusual shift in Pacific weather events. With cyclone season in the region not due to begin until November, the tropical cyclone is being linked to the effects of El Niño; a warming of surface oceans waters in the Pacific which can have an intense effect on weather patterns.

“Only 3 months ago, cyclone Pam caused massive devastation throughout the region and families in the Solomon Islands are only just beginning to recover,” continued Zoll.

“The early arrival of tropical cyclone Raquel threatens to test the resilience of affected communities once again.”

To help communities better prepare for future disasters, the Red Cross is partnering with 12 national Meteorological Services in the Pacific, including the Solomon Islands, to improve weather and climate messaging. Working with the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP), the IFRC and Solomon Islands Red Cross will help to facilitate workshops between the Meteorological office and local communities in order to ensure weather and climate related alerts are accessible and easily understood by the end users.