Tropical Cyclone Funa

Tropical Cyclones don’t often feature in New Zealand’s weather but, when they do, they usually cause serious damage and are remembered by name. Even people with only a casual interest in the weather will recognise the names Cyclone Bola, Cyclone Drena and Cyclone Giselle which is better-known as the Wahine Storm.

A tropical cyclone which formed near Vanuatu a week ago could herald the start of a cyclone season for New Zealand this year.

Tropical Cyclone Funa began as a low pressure weather system and was formally classified as a category 1 tropical cyclone on Tuesday the 15th of January. With the cyclone intensifying, it passed to the east of Vanuatu on Thursday, where it brought strong wind and rain to several islands.

As it intensified further on Friday, reports of gale force winds and heavy rain came in from Vanuatu’s southern islands where it caused a heavy swell and a small sea surge. Localised flooding was reported and small trees were brought down, according to reports posted on the New Zealand weather forum.

By Friday evening, TC Funa was classified as category 3, packing strongest gusts of between 170 and 225 km/h. During Saturday, it deepened further becoming a category 4 storm, which can supply wind gusts between 225 and 280 km/h.

Current projections are for TC Funa to pass down the west coast of the North Island during Monday, and the storm should weaken as it encounters the cooler waters south of New Caledonia. However, at 2 o’clock this morning, forecasters were still waiting for the cyclone to begin tracking to the south-west into the Tasman Sea.

The cyclone is expected to bring rain to Northland, the Bay of Plenty and northern Gisborne at the very least and, if it collects moisture from other weather systems, then most of the country could experience rain which will be welcome in drought-affected areas.

The areas affected by the cyclone’s winds will be determined by its final track, which is expected to be across the South Island late on Tuesday, by which time it could have collapsed to be a typical low pressure system.

The cyclone’s behaviour over the latter part of Sunday 20th will be studied closely, to see whether it collapses due to the cooler temperatures and the heaviest rain is quickly dumped at sea. A weather watch has been issued by Metservice, and warnings of high winds and rainfall will be issued (if necessary) once the cyclone’s track and strength is determined as it nears the country.

In the meantime, after a lengthy period of relatively calm weather, it’s a good time to chase leaves and debris out of gutters and storm drains and muster the assorted flotsam and jetsam in the backyard that might get tossed about by strong winds.

[Compiled from commentary and notes provided by the NZ Weather Forum. ]

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