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IMAGE: Cyclone Wilma – Where the damaging winds are

One of the biggest complaints we received following the recent storms was in relation to strong winds not affecting everyone. 

It’s a fortunate thing, really, that the damaging winds with tropical cyclones only cover a small area – compared to Southern Ocean lows which can spread out over thousands of kilometres sometimes.

In the South Pacific the chance of a nation being hit by a cyclone is lower than somewhere like the United States – simply because the United States has a much larger coastline.

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New Zealand pretty much has a 700km wide stretch of land that is most vulnerable to cyclones or ex-tropical storms.  This is the coastline from the Far North to East Cape.  Fiji only has about a 300km width.

Compare that Queensland’s 2400km stretch along the Coral Sea, or America’s 4400km stretch from the Texas/Mexico border to Florida and up to New York.

It’s New Zealands narrow northern coastline that means we luckily miss out on direct hits from most cyclones.  But every one that comes towards us needs to be mentioned and the public need to be warned about them, as they are dangerous and deadly.

This graphic, produced by on Google Earth shows Wilma’s current extreme winds.  Purple indicates hurricane force winds (sustained winds that start at 120km/h and are currently peaking at about 190km/h near the centre).  Yellow indicates gale force winds between 62km/h and 119km/h. 

Note this is now, while it’s a category 4 cyclone.  By the time it reaches New Zealand the size of damaging gales will be considerably small – mostly likely only covering an area the size of the purple circle. 

So they are small, but very potent.

Wilma’s winds as of Thursday afternoon. Purple = Hurricane force, Yellow – Gale.

*Graphic based on data provided by the NZ Govt.
**Measurements quoted in story are rough estimates based on Google Earth measurements


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