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5.7M earthquake adds shaking to gales on Tongatapu

Nuku'alofa, Tonga

Location of the M5.7 earthquake. 16 February 2016. Source: USGS.
A short tremor was felt in Tongatapu tonight at around 4:03 am. The earthquake rattled houses and woke people, who stayed indoors sheltering from the gale force winds and heavy rains brought to Tonga overnight by Tropical Cyclone Winston.

The shaking lasted only a few seconds. USGS reported the M 5.7 earthquake occurring at 04:02:33, located 35km WNW of Havelu, Tongatapu, at a depth of 10km.

Cyclone Winston 

Meanwhile, a greater concern is Tropical Cyclone Winston, a very unusual cyclone that is worrying weather experts. Tonight TC Winston is a cat. 2,  parallel with Tongatapu, and expected to lie 315km to the west of Nuku'alofa at 7:00am today. The cyclone is moving northeast at about 25 km per hour (14 knots). Near its centre the cyclone is estimated to have an average wind speed of 95km per hour with momentary gusts of 150km per hour, Tonga Met stated in its Tropical Cyclone Advisory Number Four at 1:00am.

Tonight Ha'apai, Tongatapu and 'Eua were experiencing damaging gale force winds, that were forecast to have an average speed of 65-85 km per hour with gusts upt to 120 km per hour.

Tonga's Chief Meteorological officer  'Ofa Fa'anunu, commented tonight that he doesn't like the cyclone's track. “This Winston is a strange one, it's moving north quite quickly…when it gets into warmer warters it will take off,” he said.

TC Winston has a potential to intensify into a severe hurricane. It also has a potential to recurve to the south and come back over Tonga again.

Tonga Met have been on alert all night issuing Tropical Cyclone warnings. A media release on TC Winston is expected at around 10:00am today, Tuesday February 16.