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Residents bracing for ‘heavy swells’

Friday 28 April 2023 | Written by Matthew Littlewood | Published in National, Weather


Residents bracing for ‘heavy swells’
Items and building materials are discarded or have been swept away by the heavy swells and damaged. Photo: SIAN SOLOMON/22071369

Rarotonga residents are bracing themselves for high swells this weekend, after a warning from the Met Service.

Climate Change Cook Islands programme manager Matt Blacka said Cook Islands Meteorological Service and Emergency Management Cook Islands is monitoring an intensifying low-pressure system to the east of New Zealand, which is expected to send heavy ocean swell conditions to our Southern Group islands from Friday evening through until Saturday evening.

In New Zealand, heavy rain and strong wind watches are in place for Auckland and the surrounding regions from late Saturday through until Monday (NZ time).

Blacka said: “While the weather may be fine, people with beachfront properties or those planning beach, lagoon or ocean activities on the south side of Rarotonga should be cautious of the conditions on Saturday.”

“From Tikioki to Kavera we can expect strong lagoon currents and high wave runup on the beaches, with potential for wave overwash to exceed the beach during high tide. Strong currents will also move through Muri lagoon towards Avana during this period of heavy swell.”

Blacka said while the impacts of the swell will be reduced due to the smaller neap tides at the moment, people should be aware of the changing conditions at the beach.

“High tides will be at 4:10am and 4:40pm on Saturday,” he said.

Titikaveka MP Sonny Williams urged everyone to take precautions.

“We all remember how bad the high swells were in July last year, and people need to remember what they did last time to protect themselves,” Williams said.

“Don’t underestimate the power of these waves, they can cause significant damage.”

Williams said the local Puna Emergency Centre has put out a warning notice reminding everyone to stay calm and prepare themselves.

“Take action if you need to,” Williams said.

Cook Islands Tourism Industry Council president Liana Scott, of Muri Beach Club Hotel, said: “As beachfront property owners we are continuously watching weather conditions for our guests’ comfort, but it is good to see notifications come through from Met office and EMCI.”

“Most properties put a lot of effort and funds into keeping beaches maintained and often these high surges can cause quite a bit of destruction – I guess the only silver lining is that we receive notification early to be able to do whatever preparation we can,” Scott said.

“Often processes are in place from property to property and I am sure many whom have been through these experiences will continue to monitor the situation.”

Krystina Tatuava, owner of accommodation Muri Shores Villas, said they were more prepared this time around for any high swells event.

“Last time, we didn’t receive the warnings until it was too late, so we were caught off guard,” Tatuava said.

“This time, we’ve received the warning well ahead of time, and we’ve been able to make both staff and guests aware. We’re just hoping for the best.”

She said they had also purchased sandbags in case the swells hit, while they had contingency plans for moving furniture.

“We will be a bit more ready this time,” Tatuava said.

Moana Sands general operations manager Leilani Noovao said they were monitoring the situation, and their response would depend on the severity of the swells.

“Safety is of utmost importance,” she said.