The Tongan government declared a state of emergency on Monday morning to allow its 100,000 inhabitants time to prepare and evacuate their homes if necessary.
The category 4 cyclone battered Tonga overnight in what has been called the worst storm to hit that country in 60 years
This evening, Gita is forecast to hit southern Fiji as a category 5 cyclone as it intensifies over Fijian waters.
Small islands expected to be most affected are Ono-i-lau and Vatoa – with the cyclone having already caused widespread damage in neighbouring Samoa and American Samoa.
Will Cyclone Gita reach NZ?
Some forecast models are showing the remnants of Tropical Cyclone Gita reaching New Zealand in about a week.
“There’s still a risk it could come down and pass across New Zealand in just over a week’s time but it’s not something we have any definitive answer on just yet,” MetService tropical cyclone forecaster Matthew Ford said.
“There’s a spread of possibilities.”
If remnants of Cyclone Gita do reach New Zealand, he said it was the northern half of New Zealand was most likely to be affected.
“In a couple more day’s time hopefully the models will have settled down and we will have a bit more of a consistent picture of what’s going to happen.”
According to WeatherWatch, computer models had been agreeing for days that Gita would swing out into the Tasman Sea then curve back around and make a direct hit into New Zealand.
MetService New Zealand lead meteorologist Michael Martens said the tropical trough hovering over the North Island was behind the “incredibly humid conditions” with 100 per cent humidity likely this morning.
“That is unheard of. It is what you expect in the Cook Islands and the tropics,” he said.
NIWA weather said: “Check out the moisture connection between Tropical #CycloneGita & the North Island today — a narrow but potent plume of water vapour being transported from the tropics to NZ.
“The connection fizzles late-week as the cyclone treks southwestward.”
Where is cyclone Gita’s track map heading?
Weather maps show the cyclone approached Tonga at 6am GMT time on Monday, having looped around after hitting Samoa at around midday on Friday.
As of 7.30am on Tuesday, February 13, the cyclone is now in Fijan waters.
Akosita Talei, FBC journalist, said: “Cyclone Gita is expected to move westwards with increased, frequent cloud and rain over Kadavu and Viti Levu for the rest of this week.
“A change in weather can be expected in the weekend as Cyclone Gita moves towards New Zealand.
“Tropical Cyclone Gita Category 4 has moved away from the Southern Lau group and did not make any landfall.”
Tropical Cyclone Gita is scheduled to pass south of New Caledonia on Saturday before travelling south into the Tasman Sea.
“Early next week there is a chance it may reach New Zealand, but the model is still uncertain,” Martens said.
“Once it moves out of the tropics and the sea temperature decreases it will lose a lot of its power.
“Even if it gets up to a category 5 it will likely be a 3 or a mid-level 2 storm if it reaches here.”