New Caledonia

New Caledonia cleans up after Cyclone Ruby

Update- 16 December 2021

New Caledonia has escaped relatively unscathed from a tropical cyclone that was later downgraded to a tropical storm.

But wind gusts still peaked at 185km/h on the northernmost point of the archipelago while rainfall exceeded more than 400mm over parts of the eastern coastline.

Cyclone Ruby initially reached Grand Terre, New Caledonia’s main island, on Tuesday morning with sustained winds of 110km/h.

The tropical cyclone’s arrival on Monday to the Belep Islands, north-west of Grand Terre, was set to be upgraded from a category-two cyclone to an extreme category-three, according to the Bureau of Meteorology.

In the first cyclone of the season, New Caledonian scales rated Ruby a “strong tropical depression”.

The wild 185km/h winds hit Poingam on Tuesday evening and moved to 162km/h at Montagne des Sources that is located 500 kilometres away at the other end of New Caledonia.

The capital, Noumea, felt the brunt of 135km/h winds, ensuring its airport was closed until Thursday.

The centre of all the wind gusts was located about 35 kilometres south of the seaside commune of Poindimie after prolonged swells and storm surges were generated by a low-pressure zone system.

The heavy rain marked a phenomenon during the passage of the cyclone.

cyclone ruby new caledonia
Residents help clean up the debris from tropical cyclone Ruby in New Caledonia. Picture: Twitter

Inside 48 hours until Thursday morning, rainfall totalled 405 mm in Kouaoua, between 200mm and 400mm from Yaté to Houailou, and between 100 and 200 mm over the rest of Grande Terre.

The heaviest flooding occurred in Kouaoua and Hienghene, despite being 200 kilometres apart.

Many roads on Grand Terre were unpassable due to rain. A landslide blocked off one road entirely in Ponerihouen. Raft crossings at Golone, Malabou, Nendjane, and Nehoue were suspended for days.

Numbers of people had to shelter in reception centres out of the weather.

Households across several municipalities experienced power outages and shortages of water supply.

Energy providers reported that around 30,000 customers were without electricity from the weather.

Ruby weakened and dissipated by Tuesday evening, but government officials were quick to issue out warnings over heavy rains, strong winds and rough seas on Wednesday.

A category-two tropical cyclone alert remained in effect for the southernmost islands of the country.

Residents in the area were advised to remain indoors and stay away from windows.

Other New Caledonian provinces moved more into a safeguard phase, with the public being advised to monitor the situation and limit non-essential travel.

Health authorities have warned residents to stay clear of stagnant pools of water after flooding as it increases incidences of insect and waterborne diseases, including dengue fever, cholera and malaria.

The threat of outbreaks is elevated in New Caledonia’s underdeveloped areas of major urban centres over its close proximity to open sewer lines.

Raw sewage and other hazardous materials mixed with floodwaters remain a serious health threat.

Update- 14 December 2021

Tropical cyclone Ruby has made landfall in New Caledonia early on Tuesday morning.

A number of low-pressure zones that are connected to the cyclone have drifted southwards to the top of Grand Terre, the country’s main island.

The weather bureau expects the winds to turn into an extreme category-three cyclone as it drifts down the north-eastern coastline.

More than 200 millimetres of rain is expected to fall from Ruby.

Its impact will be felt worse on New Caledonia’s Loyalty Islands, nearly 200 kilometres east from Grand Terre.

Noumea, the capital and largest city, appears it will escape the worst winds but is also not entirely out of the danger zone.

The Vanuatu meteorology issued a “severe weather warning” for heavy rainfall and a high-seas warning for open waters, but felt only mild remnants of Ruby.

The cyclone across the Pacific is expected to dissipate by Friday after the lows are absorbed.

The centre of the cyclone will drift south-eastwards and become calm away from any land mass.

The cyclone is currently full of warm air that swirls rapidly, but the air will cool down, spread and fizzle out.

While New Zealand will miss the cyclone, it is still copping heavy rainfalls from its aftereffects.

The downpour has issued a flooding risk throughout the North Island and potentially across parts of the South Island.

Manawatu received the heaviest rain on Monday night while Northland and Auckland are expecting a burst of heavier falls and stronger winds, including coastal gales, on Tuesday.

But Bay of Plenty is predicted to cop the most wet weather, measured in excess of 150mm of rain.

13 December 2021

Extreme wind gusts from the north-east Coral Sea are tracking a path towards New Caledonia.

Current category-two winds were “likely” to intensify over the next 24 to 48 hours, the Bureau of Meteorology confirmed on Monday.

“Anyone out there does need to be prepared for a cyclone,” meteorologist Helen Reid said.

“Every cyclone brings the possibility of some level of damage, with the potential to be a category-three cyclone – that would be classed as a severe cyclone.”

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Cyclone Ruby is also expected to be severe enough to possibly uproot houses by the time it reaches the larger archipelago.

New Caledonian communities “need to be preparing themselves for the impact of a tropical cyclone” after Ruby bared down on the country’s Belep Islands, north-west of Noumea, on Monday.

The cyclone hit the Belep islands around 110km/h but was gathering speed.

The gusts can “quite easily” exceed 160km/h during such category-three cyclones, Ms Reid said.

Pacific tropical cyclone warning – Where could it hit?
Cyclone Ruby begins to impact on New Caledonia off the coast of Australia. Picture: Weatherzone

“That is what we are preparing it will intensify to and would become that it would impact in a sense that it would deliver roof and structural damage to homes,” she said.

“Caravans, because of their size, are likely to be destroyed and power failure is a high likelihood.”

Damage in the Pacific should be maintained to just New Caledonia and avoid nearby Vanuatu, Fiji, Tonga and Niue altogether.

Cyclone Ruby is the first serious large-scale air mass in the Pacific’s eastern basin, developing after some smaller cyclone systems had formed west over the Indian Ocean.

“By the time it moves into extra tropical waters, the depression that is below will still continue,” Ms Reid explained.

“The low that will still continue is likely to head and affect just New Zealand a little bit as well.”

Meteorologists are monitoring closely a system over the Arafura Sea, located between Australia and New Guinea, but is not expected to form a tropical cyclone.

Australian waters that extend through the Pacific region cop six to eight cyclones over the summer period, most of which are tracked to the eastern region around New Caledonia.

But Ms Reid said affects associated with global warming have stirred up the potential for an increase in the number cyclones every season.

“We are expecting a few more this year considering the waters are so much warmer, thanks to the La Niña sort of balance from the southern isolation of the La Niña effect,” she said.

“That gives us the potential for more formation over the Pacific Ocean and Coral Sea region.

“It will affect islands communities, but possibly not quite as far as the Australian mainland as much.

“It is yet to see where each one forms because there is that potential for more to develop this year.”

La Niña is characterised by the unusually cold ocean temperatures around the equator of the Pacific Ocean – compared to El Niño that has unusually warmer temperatures.

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