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Cyclone Gita Hits Tonga

Residents of Nuku’alofa, the capital of Tonga, are now recovering from Cyclone Gita, which blew through on Monday. Gita has been called the worst storm to hit the island nation in 60 years. Trees were uprooted and roofs blown off — including the roof of the Parliament building. Sustained winds of 120 mph with gusts of 180 mph were reported. The storm had already caused severe flooding and damage in Samoa as a Category 2 storm, but was upgraded to a Category 4 by the time it hit Tonga. So far most of the damage is in the populated capital with less boat damage as it missed the main cruising area of Vava’u. 

The eyewall of Cyclone Gita hit Tonga hard but fortunately passed to the south of the main island of Fiji.

© 2018 Windyty

We touched base with Shane Walker of Sunsail/Moorings Tonga/New Zealand, who reported, "Fortunately for Vava’u, the eye of Cyclone Gita passed approximately 200 miles to the south, and consequently we suffered no damage."

"Tongatapu was not so lucky and took the full force of the cyclone. My contacts in Tongatapu tell me that the only good thing was that it was moving quickly and that meant that the destructive force only lasted a few hours."

We also heard from Joe at Vava’u Shipwrights, who said, "All good here. The cyclone hit Tongatapu, which is well south of Vava’u, so we didn’t get anything much above 30 knots. They are full bore cleaning up down in Tongatapu now, but we still haven’t got the full picture of how extensive the damage is. Tongans are a resilient bunch though, so they’ll pull through OK.

"I’ve had a few reports from the Ha’apai as well and all seems OK. Don McIntyre from the Royal Nomuka Yacht Club says all is well there and they have only had some small damage.

"I don’t think that the coming cruising season will be affected by Gita’s passing at all and most of the clean up and reconstruction in Nuku’alofa will either be complete or well in hand by the time the first yachts start to arrive."

The South Pacific cruising season will be kicking off as the cyclone season winds down over the course of the spring. Many South Pacific-bound cruisers will be leaving the West Coast of the Americas with the Pacific Puddle Jump following send-off parties in Puerto Vallarta (March 5), Balboa YC in Panama (March 8) and Shelter Bay Marina on the Caribbean side of Panama (March 10). 

Cyclone Gita has continued its path west, passing to the south of Noumea, but it’s predicted to hook south and then east, possibly affecting New Zealand, though hopefully with reduced impact.

Running a buttonhook, Gita looks likely to head south and east. 

© 2018 NOAA

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Hey, it’s February 14. Maybe you heard, or maybe you’re reading this and going, ‘oh shit’, I’d better go buy some damn roses and make reservations.
Edward Stancil, port captain for Peninsula Yacht Club and a resident of the endangered Docktown Marina since 1996, shared the following photo and letter, which he had sent to the city attorney and city council of Redwood City on February 11.