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Tourism industry braces for ‘weather event’

Tuesday 16 August 2022 | Written by Matthew Littlewood | Published in National, Weather

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Tourism industry braces for ‘weather event’
King tides destroyed The Rarotongan Resort deck costing the resort over a million dollars in total damages. Photo: CALEB FOTHERINGHAM/22071338

Tourism operators are bracing themselves for the upcoming weather event forecast to start today.

The event, which includes large waves and strong winds, is set to reach the Southern Cook Islands today, peaking on Wednesday evening and subsiding on Thursday.

“A trough of low pressure with associated cloud and showers continues to affect Southern Cooks. Meanwhile, a high-pressure system to the far south of the country directs strong south-easterly winds and damaging heavy swells over the group,” a release from Cook Islands Met Service said on Monday.

Met Service director Arona Ngari said waves were expected to reach as high as 4.5 metres in affected areas. However, he also said that he did not think the event would be as catastrophic as the king tides that occurred in July, which led to several businesses, including The Rarotongan Resort, to be badly damaged.

Cook Islands Tourism Corporation chief executive Karla Eggelton said “at this time we are working with Emergency Management Cook Islands (EMCI) and the Met office to fully understand the extent of the adverse weather that is being forecast”. 

“We have been advised from the Met office that this will not be as serious from the very first scenario we had experienced but similar to the second scenario and Takitumu (Ngatangiia, South Easterly side) and Titikaveka corner of the Southerly side from Ngatangiia,” Eggelton said.

“This will be reviewed again in the morning (today) and we will update from there.”

During the July king tide event, some businesses complained about the information not getting out sooner, but the Met Office and ECMI both were adamant that they had used all available avenues for warning people.

On Monday, Eggelton said timely, effective and ongoing communication is critical in these instances. 

“Our first response to this situation is to inform our industry of the pending weather providing them as much advance notice and detailed information as possible,” Eggelton said.  

“The second critical element is understanding the frequency of the updates – when our industry can expect to hear the next update on the situation.

“Third, the industry needs to know who and where they can find accurate, factual information 24/7 – a single source of accessible official information, usually a website or a social media platform that is updated in real time is recommended.”

Eggelton said from an emergency management perspective, all emergency response measures cater to residents and visitors alike. 

“Covid-19 health response was a clear and successful example of all persons being considered in the emergency response. For weather related emergencies and events, EMCI will be the point of contact for response. Cook Islands Tourism supports these efforts,” she said.