Monday, February 15, 2010
Cyclone Rene, category 4, is headed to Tonga right now, and will pass right over our island group of Ha'apai and our town of Pangai. We have been out of Tonga for exactly one month now, so we are really watching this storm and thinking of all our friends there now - they are in a safe consolidation point. We had a couple of cyclones while we were there, but none this strong and with such a direct hit. There will most likely be a lot of damage from the strong winds, a lot of the buildings and houses are flimsy. The last big cyclone to hit the island was in '82, and most of the buildings were destroyed, livestock perished, and bush land destroyed. If this kind of storm was headed anywhere else - thailand, or the US coast etc., people would evacuate inland. But unfortunately on this small island nation that's not possible, people bunker down in the strong cement buildings and wait it out. And Tonga is such a small nation, this isn't even making much news around the world, and when it does it is focused on American Samoa or Samoa- even though there was hardly any damage there. The storm has picked up and become stronger as it heads directly to Tonga. If you look at the storm path below, it's amazing, it looks like the storm path curved to go right over the Tongan islands and right at the worst stage of the storm. The second image below is a satellite image of the storm right now over Tonga, the worst part is about to hit our island (the red dot on the image). We'll post more as we hear about the effects after the storm, but please keep Tonga in your thoughts and prayers as this storm passes over them.