Cyclone Safety in Samoa: How to Prepare for a Cyclone in Samoa
Cyclone Safety in Samoa: How to Prepare for a Cyclone in Samoa

Cyclone Safety in Samoa: How to Prepare for a Cyclone in Samoa

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What You Need to Know About Cyclones in Samoa

Tropical cyclones that develop in the South Pacific have a risk of affecting Samoa. If you are visiting the islands during the cyclone season, November to April, then there is a small risk of experiencing a cyclone. Due to the danger of this type of extreme weather event, it’s best to know how to prepare for a cyclone and know what to do if a cyclone occurs while you’re visiting. Nevertheless, Samoa is well-prepared with emergency procedures should a cyclone occur.

For more information on Samoa’s climate, see Samoa Weather, Seasons & Climate + Samoa Weather by Month.

When is the Cyclone Season in Samoa?

The cyclone season in Samoa and the South Pacific starts in November and ends in April. This is during Samoa’s wet season. The peak months for cyclone risk are the months of DecemberJanuary and February. There is also a higher risk of cyclone activity during an El Nino year.

Cyclone Safety in Samoa: How to Prepare for a Cyclone in Samoa© SamoaPocketGuide.com

Cyclone Warnings in Samoa

The weather in Samoa is well monitored by the Samoa Meteorological Service, the New Zealand MetService and NWFC Nadi, so cyclones are reported as soon as there are signs that they are beginning to develop. It’s highly unlikely that cyclones will take the country by surprise, which gives you time to prepare.

How Cyclones are Reported

The first sign of a cyclone forming might come from a “tropical depression”. Meteorologists will keep an eye on any depression that becomes a storm if its wind speeds reach 65-120 km/h (40-73 mph). If the wind speeds continue increasing, the cyclone will be declared and given a name. Cyclones affecting Samoa in the past have been called “Ofa” and “Val”, for example. When a cyclone is given a name, it is widely reported in the media across Samoa and the rest of the South Pacific.

Cyclones are given a category to indicate how severe they are, where Category 1 is the weakest (wind speeds of 88-125 km/h / 55-78 mph) and Category 5 is the strongest (wind speeds greater than 250 km/h / 155 mph).

Meteorologists will keep an eye on the movement of the cyclone, drawing up a five-day forecast outlining the path that they think it will take. The path prediction is usually quite broad, as an exact path is difficult to determine, but this gives nations time to prepare. Updates are given as more data becomes available.

Cyclone Safety in Samoa: How to Prepare for a Cyclone in Samoa© Unsplash

The Dangers of Cyclones

Why do you need to prepare for a cyclone? The severe gale force winds can cause significant damage to weaker structures in Samoa, for instance, buildings in villages. There may also be damage to power lines causing blackouts, damage to crops and trees, and dangerous airborne debris.

Another danger can be contaminated tap water, although we recommend that you always filter (with a Lifestraw bottle, for instance) or boil tap water in Samoa unless you know your accommodation is treating the water – see Is the Water Safe to Drink in Samoa?

It’s important to note that cyclone damage is quite localised, significantly affecting the areas in its path rather than the entire country.

Cyclone Safety in Samoa: How to Prepare for a Cyclone in Samoa© SamoaPocketGuide.com

How to Prepare for a Cyclone

The first way to be prepared for a cyclone in Samoa is to be aware of weather warnings during your stay. If you’re visiting Samoa during the cyclone season, between November and April, be sure to check weather reports regularly. For instance, severe weather warnings are published on the Samoa Meteorological Service website.

Given the nature of cyclones, it’s difficult to determine exactly how much damage they will cause. With this in mind, it’s better to be overprepared than underprepared.

Ask your accommodation provider what is the cyclone procedure for the building if visiting during the cyclone season. They will know which is the strongest part of the building in the likely scenario that you need to stay where you are during a cyclone.

Have an emergency kit at the ready, such as clothes, food and water for three days. It’s also useful to have a battery-operated radio (or a spare power bank for your smartphone, for instance, where you can listen to the radio), as well as a torch. Make sure you know the emergency number for Samoa: 911.

Keep following the news and progress of the cyclone through radio, TV, text messages (you have to sign up for text alerts) and online news outlets. You’ll be informed if evacuation is necessary and where to evacuate to. Official advice will be given through local radio, TV and text messages. Learn more about getting a Samoa phone number in The Best SIM Cards in Samoa for Travellers.

Cyclone Safety in Samoa: How to Prepare for a Cyclone in Samoa© SamoaPocketGuide.com

A History of Cyclones in Samoa

While cyclones form in the South Pacific at least once per year, only some have affected Samoa since records began. According to ThinkHazard.org and historic data, there is more than a 20% chance of potentially-damaging wind speeds in Samoa in the next 10 years. Below is a record of cyclones that have affected Samoa since 1831.

Cyclone Tino

One of the most recent cyclones affecting Samoa, Cyclone Tino, in January 2020, disrupted air and marine travel and caused power outages.

Cyclone Ofa

In February 1990, Cyclone Ofa caused flooding and US$130 million worth of damage.

Cyclone Gita

In February 2018, Cyclone Gita caused rivers to burst their banks, flooding and damage to the power grid.

1889 Apia Cyclone

One of the most famous cyclone events in Samoa’s history is the 1889 Apia Cyclone. The cyclone swept across Apia during the “Samoan crises” where three colonial powers, the USA, Britain and Germany, lost most of their warships and the Apia Harbour was devasted. Learn more about the social history of this period in A Brief History of Samoa.

Cyclone Amos

In April 2016, despite preparations with around 60 residents evacuated prior to the storm, Cyclone Amos did not cause as much damage as predicted, with the Category 4 storm decreasing to Category 3 by the time it hit Samoa. The most damage, however, was flooding on the roads in Savai’i and power outages during the storm.

Cyclone Keli

Cyclone Keli was the first recorded post-season cyclone in the South Pacific, occurring in June 1997 and narrowly missing Samoa by 200 km / 125 mi.

Cyclone Val

One of Samoa’s worst recorded cyclones was Cyclone Val in December 1991, which caused 13 deaths and an estimated US$280 million in damage, including homes and agricultural crops.

Cyclone Heta

Cyclone Heta caused isolated flooding, damaged power lines and injured around 20 people in December 2003/January 2004.

Cyclone Evan

In December 2012, Cyclone Evan was a severe cyclone, causing 14 deaths and estimated damage of around ST$465 million.

Cyclones in Samoa, Month-by-Month

  • November – 1875, 1890, 1923, 1927 and 1941
  • December – 1831, 1839, 1840, 1842, 1848, 1875, 1890, 1925, 1926, 1930, 1939, 1941, 1946, 1950, 1962, 1991 (Cyclone Val), 2003 (Cyclone Heta) and 2012 (Cyclone Evan)
  • January – 1863, 1865, 1869, 1870, 1877, 1885, 1886, 1890, 1915, 1926, 1933, 1936, 1939, 1944, 1947, 1951, 1966, 2004 (Cyclone Heta) and 2020 (Cyclone Tino)
  • February – 1889, 1903, 1941, 1947, 1954, 1957, 1968, 1990 (Cyclone Ofa) and 2018 (Cyclone Gina)
  • March – 1846, 1869, 1877, 1879, 1883, 1889 (Apia Cyclone), 1923, 1926, 1956 and 1961.
  • April – 1850, 1855, 1877 and 2016 (Cyclone Amos)
  • June – 1997 (Cyclone Keli).
Cyclone Safety in Samoa: How to Prepare for a Cyclone in Samoa© SamoaPocketGuide.com

Frequently Asked Questions About Cyclones in Samoa

Here are some of the internet’s most asked questions regarding cyclones in Samoa. They might answer yours too!

How Many Cyclones Have Hit Samoa?

Since 1831, there have been more than 65 cyclones that have affected Samoa. Only two cyclones have recorded fatalities.

What are the Worst Cyclones in Samoa?

The worst cyclones in Samoa are considered Cyclone Val, which caused 13 deaths and an estimated US$280 million in damage in December 1991, and the 1889 Apia Cyclone.

Yes, Samoa has had cyclones in the past and is at risk of being affected by cyclones during the South Pacific cyclone season, from November to April.

What Months Do Cyclones Occur in Samoa?

The months that cyclones in Samoa are most likely to occur are between November and April. The months with the highest risk are December, January and February.

More About Cyclones in Samoa

That’s it for our complete guide to cyclones in Samoa and how to prepare. For more about natural disasters and safety in Samoa, take a look at the following guides:

Finally, get all of the tips required for a smooth getaway to the islands from our 30 Tips for Travelling in Samoa.

Author

Laura S.

This article was reviewed and published by Laura, editor-in-chief and co-founder of Samoa Pocket Guide. Since arriving solo in the South Pacific over 10 years ago with nothing but a backpack and a background in journalism, her mission has been to show the world how easy (and awesome) it is to explore a paradise such as Samoa. She knows the islands inside out and loves sharing tips on how best to experience Upolu and Savai’i’s must-dos and hidden gems. Laura is also the editor of several other South Pacific travel guides.

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