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.
For more information on Niue’s climate, see Niue Weather, Seasons & Climate + Weather by Month.
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 as 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 65-120 kph (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 88-125 kph / 55-78 mph) and Category 5 is the strongest (wind speeds greater than 250 kph / 155 mph).
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 of 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 trees and power lines to fall, leading to power cuts. Some cyclones have been known to damage crops and cause dangerous airborne debris, which makes it essential to find shelter in a tropical cyclone.
More than severe winds and gales, the effect cyclones have on the ocean is the biggest danger to Niue. Niue’s worst cyclone in living history, Cyclone Heta, brought tsunami waves that devastated the old town of Alofi which was in a vulnerable coastal area. A new town location is now established set back from coastal hazard zones.
Another danger to be aware of is contaminated tap water. Cyclones often come with flooding which 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 Can You Drink the Water 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, the Tourist Information Centre and through the Niue Met Service and National Disaster Management Office via radio or their Facebook Pages. Get tips on accessing the internet on the island from our guide, 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.
A History of Cyclones in Niue
While cyclones form in the South Pacific at least once per year, only some have affected Niue since records began. Below is a record of cyclones that have affected Niue since 1915.
The most famous and devastating cyclone to affect Niue in recent history, Cyclone Heta was a Category 5 cyclone that developed in January 2004. The cyclone caused significant damage to coastal areas and destroyed the old settlement of Alofi. Despite the destruction, there were minimal fatalities.
Cyclone Tino occurred in January 2020 which produced damaging swells, destroying some temporary coastal structures and damaging some sea tracks.
Cyclone Gita caused weather alerts to be raised in February 2018.
Cyclone Winston caused heavy swells to crash on the coasts in February 2016.
In 2001, Category 4 Cyclone Waka caused a storm surge of up to 8 m (26 ft) and left numerous fallen trees and power lines.
Cyclone Ofa caused considerable damage resulting in power cuts and contaminating drinking water in February 1990.
Although Niue was prepared for Cyclone Tusi which was reported to affect the island in January 1987, cyclone alerts were dropped when it was established that gale-force winds would not develop over the island.
Cyclones in Niue, Month-by-Month
- November – 1964 and 1968
- December – 1930, 1946, 1948, 1965 and 2001 (Cyclone Waka)
- January – 1915, 1920, 1944, 1946, 1947, 1955, 1956, 1987 (Cyclone Tusi), 2004 (Cyclone Heta) and 2020 (Cyclone Tino)
- February – 1941, 1944, 1956, 1957, 1958, 1968, 1990 (Cyclone Ofa), 2016 (Cyclone Winston) and 2018 (Cyclone Gita)
- March – 1941 and 1963.
More About Cyclones in Niue
That’s it for our complete guide to cyclones in Niue and how to prepare. For more about natural disasters and safety in Niue, take a look at the following guides:
- The Guide to Earthquakes & Tsunamis in Niue
- Niue Safety Tips: Is it Safe to Travel to Niue?
- Niue Weather, Seasons & Climate + Weather by Month
Finally, get all of the tips required for a smooth getaway to the island from our 30 Tips for Travelling in Niue.