Cyclone Freda strengthening

MICHAEL FIELD
Last updated 08:34 31/12/2012
An infrared satellite image of Cyclone Freda.
EYE IN THE SKY: An infrared satellite image of Cyclone Freda.

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Cyclone Freda is beginning to pummel New Caledonia after sweeping over the Solomon Islands during the weekend.

But meteorologists cannot yet agree whether Freda, the second cyclone of the South Pacific season, will have any major impact on New Zealand later in the week.

Freda formed last week near the Solomons and while it bought high winds and rain, there are no reports of death or injuries.

It is being felt strongly in the Rennell Islands, population 1500, this morning. The islands are frequently hit by cyclones.

New Caledonia's Meteo France weather service says Freda, moving over the Coral Sea, has intensified to a category two storm on a five-point scale.

The weather service says that as the storm moves toward New Caledonia's main island Grande Terra, it is expected to bring winds averaging close to 170 kph with gusts up to 250 kph near its centre.

They predict Freda will reach its peak intensity in the next 12 hours.

The US military's Joint Typhoon Warning Centre in Hawaii describes Freda as erratic and predict the storm will move along New Caledonia's southern coast and into the north Tasman Sea.

The centre says it's unclear from weather models where Freda will continue after moving away from New Caledonia.

In the past, similar storms have reached the northern half of the North Island.

Earlier this month Cyclone Evan left a swathe of devastation in its wake, with at least 15 people dead in Samoa, homes destroyed, widespread flooding, while also stranding thousands of tourists in Fiji.

Remnants of Evan reached New Zealand over Christmas but did no damage.

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