A high pressure system pushing up from New Zealand this week produced swells of up to 4.5 m (14.7 feet) in the Cook Islands, inundating coastal areas and damaging homes and roads. The same event produced destructive swells as large as 9 m (29.5 feet) in French Polynesia.
A high pressure system pushing up from New Zealand, labeled a highly unusual weather event by John Strickland – Cook Islands’ emergency management director, produced swells of up to 4.5 m (14.7 feet), damaging properties and flooding roads in the Cook Islands on July 12, 2022.1
Strickland said the impacts were the most far-reaching he had seen in a decade.
“It was a sudden hit at night, there was damage that took place Tuesday night local time. There was an ‘unexpected sea surge’ in Rarotonga. Rough seas, debris and rocks, you name it, it was shifted onto the roads,” Strickland said.
Low-lying coastal areas in Puaikura District along with Titikaveka, in Takitumu District, were the most severely impacted areas.
While things have settled down on Wednesday, early on Thursday morning local time Strickland received reports of northern Islands experiencing high seas, resulting in the closure of schools.
Emergency services remain on high alert and fresh warnings have been issued for the Northern parts of the Cook Islands.
According to La Premiere, 15 houses on the west coast of Tahiti were submerged and the homeowners evacuated after swells up to 9 m (29.5 feet) high battered French Polynesia.
All marine and water related activities are forbidden for most of the territory including going to the beach.
According to local meteorological authorities this is an “exceptional phenomenon” which hasn’t been seen in French Polynesia since 2005.
1 Unexpected sea surges slam into Cook Islands and Tahiti – RNZ – July 15, 2022
Featured image credit: Radio Cook Islands
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