Several domestic and international flights have been canceled to and from Tongatapau Fua'amotu International Airport (TBU) and Vava'u International Airport (VAV) on Tuesday, December 31, as the center of Tropical Cyclone Sarai passes over Tongatapu. Authorities estimate that 300 travelers have been affected by the flight disruptions, according to local media outlets.
While Tropical Cyclone Sarai has weakened to a category one storm, the Tonga Meteorological Service (TMS) as of 15:00 on Tuesday forecasts winds up to 90 kph (56 mph), heavy rain, isolated thunderstorms, and rough seas to continue affecting Tongatapu, Vava'u, and Ha'apai island groups on Tuesday. Weather officials are advising mariners of small boats to avoid going out to sea, and have also warned of poor visibility in areas affected by heavy rain and thunderstorms. Sarai is expected to weaken to a tropical depression later on Tuesday.
As of 13:00 on Tuesday, Sarai was located at approximately 20.96°S 175.18°E (map here) and moving east-northeast at a speed of 16 kph (10 mph) with maximum winds between 70-80 kph (43-50 mph) at its center. Associated flooding, landslides, transportation and business disruptions are anticipated, as well as disruptions to power and communication services, in the coming hours and days.
Individuals in the affected areas are advised to monitor local weather reports, avoid areas directly affected by flooding, confirm road conditions before setting out, anticipate transportation and business disruptions, and adhere to instructions issued by local authorities. Avoid walking or driving through floodwaters; 15 cm (6 in) of running water is enough to knock over an adult.
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