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High waves warning in place

Monday 18 July 2022 | Written by Rashneel Kumar | Published in National, Weather

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High waves warning in place
Clean-up in Arorangi. Photo: SIAN SOLOMON/22071391

The devastating sea swells that caused widespread damage to properties along the island’s southern coast have been forecast to return with waves higher than last week’s 4.5 metres expected.

Wave conditions for all Southern Group islands are forecast to increase throughout Tuesday (tomorrow), with wave heights up to five metres by Tuesday night, continuing until Thursday.

Emergency Management Cook Islands director John Strickland yesterday said for south-eastern and southern areas of Rarotonga, they expect lagoon sea levels to be 0.5 to 1m higher than usual, wave runup and surges to be reaching the top of the beach and beyond and potential inundation of low areas.

Strong and surging currents within the lagoon and potential debris and wave spray across low areas of the coastal road during high tide are also expected.

People in southern areas between Avana and Aroa should monitor forecasts and conditions closely in coming days, Strickland said. He said they should remove or keep a close eye on all equipment on beaches and within the lagoon and ensure they have foreshore properties prepared by Tuesday morning

Strickland said key risk times will be during high tide periods – Tuesday: 1:30-3:30pm, Wednesday: 1:30-3:30am, Wednesday: 2-4pm and Thursday 2:30-4:30 am.

Cook Islands Meteorological Service director Arona Ngari said the latest forecast was associated with the high-pressure system arriving from New Zealand, which led to high swells in the southern part of the island and other islands in the group last week.

“So basically, the system seems to have locked itself to the south of us … normally the longer they hang around the bigger the waves can be and that can be the scenario for us, we are expecting high waves compared to last week’s one,” Ngari said.

“This should really send the message that something is going to be happening again for us and we need to be more prepared before the onset of the system on Tuesday afternoon or evening.”

Businesses operating along the south-eastern and southern coast areas especially those involved in adventure tourism such as lagoon and turtle tours were yesterday making some tough calls ahead of the impending weather system.

Charlotte Piho of the Cook Islands Turtle Tours said: “Safety is always most important so sadly for guests that have booked up to a year in advance it is likely all tours will be cancelled.”

“Although we have lost a lot of work over the last few weeks it gives guests a great excuse to come back. I feel most sorry for those tourism providers that have had physical damage to their businesses.”

Liana Scott, president of the Tourism Industry Council, said: “Businesses and homes are still in the middle of clean up and in the last few days we have seen the devastation caused by the huge swells not just in the Cook Islands but throughout the Pacific.”

“It is therefore imperative that business protect as much of their property as possible on the foreshore and remove furniture, loose debris and shutter low lying rooms,” the general manager of Muri Beach Club Hotel said.

“Take note of high tide times and have staff on standby in the event evacuation is required of some guests in low lying rooms. I know occupancies are high, but where possible please have rooms on standby albeit at the current property, or alternative properties in the event of limited availability.

“I think we can all agree that we should not underestimate mother nature – keep safe and be watchful of weather patterns and direction.”