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Week in Weather: What’s Been Making Headlines this Week – Cyclone Pam

No prizes for guessing what dominated the headlines over the last 7 days – it was Tropical Cyclone Pam from start to finish, in a tragic and dramatic week for the South Pacific – particularly the island nation of Vanuatu.

The only saving grace from what was ultimately an horrific event for Vanuatu was the early warning – weather experts had been picking a storm system developing in that area since late February – and as it drew closer, the models looked increasingly ominous.
We knew on Friday that the storm was packing some severe winds – upwards of 330km/h near its centre as it moved towards the capital city of Port Vila, but what we didn’t know was the destruction it would then wreak.
The hours after Pam made landfall were franticdozens were feared dead, and tens of thousands made homeless by the storm, as emergency and aid crews quickly mobilised to help assess the situation in the capital and further abroad.

Aid organisation UNICEF said publicly that the destruction caused by Cyclone Pam “could potentially be one of the worst in Pacific history” – and that statement turned out to be close to the mark, as the situation became clearer.
Up to 90 per cent of housing in Vanuatu’s capital was reported as seriously damaged by the storm, while information was slow to emerge from the country’s outer islands.
Australian officials located five international volunteers who went missing, while a further 14 people have still not been contacted, so search flights are continuing.

The total picture is still a little hazy, more than a week after the storm, given the lack of communication lines between all of the country’s islands, but aid agencies are already warning of a dire situation.
Vanuatu is in desperate need of food, clothing, medicine and basic shelter – and a full recovery operation could cost hundreds of millions of dollars, disaster relief organisations say.
President Baldwin Lonsdale spoke tearfully of “a paradise” lost, needing to rebuild from scratch after winds of up to 320km/h, storm surges and floods smashed the country.
Unicef said countless children, already destitute, were now at risk of disease as multiple disasters conspired to bring more misery to Vanuatu.
NZ Tear Fund chief executive Ian McInnes, who heads the New Zealand Disaster Relief Forum, also said Cyclone Pam had ruined crops, threatening food shortages and compounding the humanitarian disaster.
He said accurate reports from some of Vanuatu’s remote islands were slow to arrive, and it would take days or weeks to fully assess the catastrophe.

We urge anyone who wants to help to check out these organisations who are leading the recovery and aid effort in Vanuatu – after a week that nobody there will ever forget.


Of course, Pam then made a beeline straight for New Zealand – and after the horror show we had all witnessed on Friday, there were some who could be forgiven for expecting the worst.
The by now ex-cyclone thankfully slid to the east of the country, though not before causing a fair amount of fuss – with fierce winds, driving rain and huge swells buffeting Northland and the East Cape in particular.
Though the storm had weakened significantly before its outer edge reached us, about 90% of its severe weather was out at sea around the country, which was heartening – and spared us from the worst case scenario some had been dreading.

After all of that, it’s time to take a deep breath and consider how fortunate we all were in hindsight – to not only live in a country with modern forecasting techniques and instant nationwide communication, but also that we were spared what could have been a huge disaster given slightly difference circumstances.
With that in mind, we here at cannot recommend strongly enough that all of our readers consider their own Civil Defence plan – emergency supplies and equipment for you and your family is a must in this part of the world – where the environment can turn on you in an instant!

Check out Civil Defence’s recommendations here – and let us know what your current situation is in this week’s poll – we’ll publish the results tomorrow afternoon.

It’s safe to say you probably won’t be needing an emergency supply kit this weekend weatherwise, however – check out the latest outlook for your region with Philip Duncan’s Weather Video, here.

– Drew Chappell,


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