What You Need to Know About Cyclones in Niue
Tropical cyclones that develop in the South Pacific have a risk of affecting Niue. If you are visiting the island during the cyclone season, November to April, then there is a small risk of experiencing a cyclone. Due to the danger of this type of extreme weather event, it’s best to know how to prepare for a cyclone and know what to do if a cyclone occurs while you’re visiting the island. Niue is well-prepared with emergency procedures should a cyclone occur.
Niue does have a history of cyclone activity, with the worst recorded being the category 5 Cyclone Heta in January 2004. Other cyclones that have impacted Niue, although to a much lesser extent than Heta, include Cyclones Sina, ‘Ofa and Tusi.
For more information on Niue’s climate, see What is the Weather Like in Niue?
When is the Cyclone Season in Niue?
The cyclone season in Niue and the South Pacific starts in November and ends in April. This is during Niue’s summer season, otherwise known as the “wet season”. The peak months for cyclone risk are the months of December, January and February. There is also a higher risk of cyclone activity during an El Nino year.
Cyclone Warnings in Niue
The weather in Niue is well monitored by the Niue Island Met Service, the New Zealand MetService and NWFC Nadi, so cyclones are reported as soon at there are signs that they are beginning to develop. It’s highly unlikely that cyclones will take the country by surprise, which gives you time to prepare.
How Cyclones are Reported
The first sign of a cyclone forming might come from a “tropical depression”. Meteorologists will keep an eye on any depression that becomes a storm if its wind speeds reach 65-120km/h (40-73 mph). If the wind speeds continue to increase, then the cyclone will be declared and given a name. Cyclones affecting Niue in the past have been called “Heta” and “Tusi”, for example. When a cyclone is given a name, it is widely reported in the media across Niue and the rest of the South Pacific.
Cyclones are given a category to indicate how severe they are, where Category 1 is the weakest (wind speeds of 88-125km/h / 55-78mph) and Category 5 is the strongest (wind speeds greater than 250km/h / 155mph).
Meteorologists will keep an eye on the movement of the cyclone, drawing up a five-day forecast outlining a path that they think it will take. The path prediction is usually quite broad, as an exact path is difficult to determine, but this gives nations time to prepare. Updates are given as more data becomes available.
Cyclone Alerts in Niue
In the event of cyclone activity in Niue, you will be advised on its activity with early alert warnings, which are as follows:
Blue Alert (Tropical Cyclone Warning Phase 1): A cyclone is nearby and may start to affect Niue within the next 24 to 48 hours. When there is a Blue Alert, it is not known if the cyclone will affect the island but precautionary measures must be taken. Heavy rain may start to impact Niue before heavy winds start.
Yellow Alert (Tropical Cyclone Warning Phase 2): This means a cyclone threat to the island has increased and strong winds are likely to occur within the next 12 hours.
Red Alert (Tropical Cyclone Warning Phase 3): Cyclone impact is imminent so you are required to stay indoors and continue to monitor the radio for instructions.
The Dangers of Cyclones
What are the dangers of cyclones and why do you need to prepare? First, the severe winds can cause significant damage to weaker structures in Niue, such as village houses. While the old town of Alofi was devastated by Cyclone Heta in 2004, a new location is now established set back from coastal hazard zones.
There may also be damage to power lines which can cause power cuts, damage to crops and dangerous airborne debris, which makes it essential to find shelter in a tropical cyclone.
Another danger to be aware of is contaminated tap water. Cyclones often come with flooding when can affect water systems. During and after a cyclone, it’s especially important to boil tap water for 10 minutes before you drink it. See more water safety tips in 6 Ways to Make Sure the Water is Safe to Drink in Niue.
How to Prepare for a Cyclone in Niue
If you’re visiting Niue during the cyclone season, then it’s best to be aware of the weather forecast and warnings during your stay. Keep an eye on weather reports through your accommodation and the Tourist Information Centre. You can also keep updated with weather reports through your preferred weather forecast website (a recommended site includes YR Weather) using the WiFi available on the island as explained in Where to Get Wifi in Niue. For advice on getting a local SIM card to access internet data, see What Are the Niue Phone Networks?.
What to Do During a Cyclone
In the event of cyclone activity or a cyclone warning, follow the instructions given through the radio, police, your accommodation managers or Disaster Management teams on the island. They will give you instructions for the best cause of action to take for the situation.
During the midst of a cyclone, it’s important to stay indoors and monitor the radio to receive further instructions. Disconnect appliances from the power outlets and stay clear of doors and windows.