Cyclone Hola moving slowly
TROPICAL Cyclone Hola is moving slowly past Vanuatu as it becomes increasingly likely the storm will hit New Zealand on Sunday or Monday.
At 8am local time today, the Category 3 cyclone was located about 195km west southwest of Malekula and 280km west northwest of Efate.
The Vanuatu Meteo reported that in the past 3 hours, Severe Tropical Cyclone Hola was moving in a west-southwest direction at 11kph (6 knots).
Sustained winds close to the centre are estimated at 150kph.
Damaging gale force winds of 75kph (40 knots) are expected to continue to affect Sanma, Penama and Tafea provinces today.
Destructive storm force winds of 110kph (60 Knots), gusting to 160kph (85 Knots) are expected to continue to affect Malampa and Shefa provinces in the next 12 to 24 hours.
Very destructive hurricane force winds of 145kph, gusting to 205kph are expected over Malekula, Epi, Shepherds and parts of Efate.
The seas will remain very rough with heavy to phenomenal swells over MALAMPA and SHEFA provinces. Heavy rainfalls, thunderstorm and flash flooding over low lying areas and areas close to river banks including coastal flooding will continue to affect these provinces. Marine strong wind warning is current for all open coastal waters of Vanuatu. High seas warning for Vanuatu area is also current. The National Disaster Management Office (NDMO) advises that Red Alert remains in effect for Malampa and Shefa provinces and Yellow Alert for Tafea province.
Meanwhile, three forecasting models for tropical Cyclone Hola predict the storm is likely to hit New Zealand’s North Island early next week.
Fiji Met Service forecaster, Stephen Meke, said that Hola is tracking towards New Caledonia but it is likely maybe just to pass just in between New Caledonia and Vanuatu, but more towards New Caledonia.
Meke said despite its intensity, the cyclone is moving south west at a rate of 5 knots.
Strong wind warnings and storm surges remain in place for Vanuatu but there is now a moderate to high risk warning for islands to the east of New Caledonia like La Roche.