Updated: Severe Tropical Cyclone Gita remains Category 5 status as of 4pm today over warm ocean waters 1800kms north of Auckland, New Zealand. The Fiji MetService confirmed this in their 3pm advisory, saying the air pressure is at 928hPa, tracking west at 9 knots.
Winds are sustained at well over 200km/h with gusts over 250km/h, potentially closer to 280km/h if strengthening occurs. It is now moving away slowly from the Fiji area and any populated places – but will come very close to Noumea, New Caledonia and southern parts of Vanuatu and severe weather and beach conditions are possible.
WeatherWatch.co.nz says there has been little change in the reliable international modelling and private data we trusted from last Thursday when we first mentioned the storm and the potential of it hitting New Zealand. Today Government Agencies NIWA and MetService have now also said this cyclone is likely to hit New Zealand next week.
The most intense part of this cyclone is smaller than the North Island, so it’s precise intensity and tracking makes all the difference on which parts of New Zealand will be worst affected, however it does appear it will come into the western side of the North Island or perhaps the Cook Strait area. It will take two or three more days to be more precise on this. Heavy rain could be an issue for the upper South Island too.
Timing-wise it looks like Tuesday or Wednesday next week may be when it may makes landfall in western NZ. The storm will weaken slowly over cooler waters in the Tasman Sea (compared to the tropics where it started) but it may be still equal to a Category 1 or 2 cyclone when it makes landfall in New Zealand (technically they go from being ‘tropical’ cyclones to ‘extra-tropical’ in the New Zealand area due to being so far south of the equator. The central core of the storm transitions from being warm to cold. This is a technical change which usually changes the central shape of the storm but doesn’t always mean the storm will be less intense).
Of course landfall in New Zealand is still not 100% locked in – we’ll have more confidence by the end of this week but it’s looking more likely with each day.
Cyclone Gita highlights:
– Fiji Met Service