February 28, 2019
Severe Tropical Cyclone Pola to bring rain, gusty winds to Fiji and Tonga after flooding American Samoa
By Eric Leister, AccuWeather senior meteorologist
Parts of Samoa and American Samoa were inundated with heavy rainfall in recent days as a tropical system took shape to the west of the islands.
On Tuesday, this tropical threat organized into Tropical Cyclone Pola as it moved southward near Fiji and Tonga. By Wednesday the storm had strengthened into a severe tropical cyclone.
Pola is currently a Category 3 severe tropical cyclone, based on the Fiji tropical scale, with winds equal to a Category 1 hurricane in the Atlantic Ocean.
Despite tracking farther from American Samoa and Samoa, bouts of heavy rain will affect the islands into Friday.
Additional rainfall amounts of 150-300 mm (6-12 inches) are expected across the islands during this time.
As Pola tracks southward into Thursday morning, it will travel between Fiji and Tonga, sparing the islands from the cyclone’s worst impacts.
Despite the strongest winds and heaviest rainfall occurring largely between Fiji and Tonga, the region will still be at risk for flooding downpours and locally strong winds.
Parts of the Lau Group in Fiji reported 50-100 mm (2-4 inches) of rain during the day on Wednesday, along with strong winds. Ono-i-Lau reported over 150 mm (6 inches) of rain.
Additional gusty winds and periods of rain are expected into Thursday morning followed by much improved weather by the afternoon.
In Tonga, western parts of Ha’apai Group and Tongatapu Group will endure the most severe impacts, with heavy rainfall and locally damaging winds possible into Thursday morning.
Rainfall of 50-100 mm (2-4 inches) with local amounts up to 200 mm (8 inches) are possible.
Wind gusts of 65-80 km/h (40-50 mph) are possible during the worst conditions from the storm
Rough surf and seas will also be hazards to bathers and anyone with marine interests across all of Fiji and Tonga into the day on Thursday.
Conditions will improve across the region late this week into this weekend; however, there will continue to be the risk for daily showers and thunderstorms.
Pola is the fifth named tropical cyclone of the season in the Fiji region, but the fourth to affect the region since the start of the year. On Wednesday it became the second severe tropical cyclone of the season in the South Pacific.
During a normal season, which runs from Nov. 1 to April 30, six to eight named tropical cyclones track across the Fiji region.