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CLICK to enlarge.Cyclones (Hurricanes)

In French Polynesia, the so-called "hurricane season" covers January through April. However, unlike in the Caribbeans, hurricanes here are far from being an annual phenomenon. Instead, we have "hurricane years", often far apart between  several "no hurricane  years".

Our last hurricanes go back to the El Nino phenomenon in  April 1998, when an unusually violent storm severely damaged the island of Huahine as well as Tahaa and Raiatea. Six months earlier (December 1997), the island of Maupiti was also totally destroyed. These disatrous and sometimes killer storms are still freshly remembered by the islanders. In 1982-83, a series of distastrous storms hit   French Polynesia several times in a row.

To try to forecast "hurricane years", see the NIWA in New Zealand: (NIWA National Institute of Water and Atmospheric research)
www.niwa.co.nz type "tahiti" in their search engine

If you are interested in tropical hurricanes in the Pacific, visit the Central Pacific Hurricane Center of Hawaii www.prh.noaa.gov

Cyclones (hurricanes) generally happen at the end of humid tropical Summer, when sea temperature reaches its peak  The ocean water temperature exceeds 26.5°C in a layer at least 50-meter deep. Warm air rises from the sea and condenses into clouds while releasing large amounts of heat. At the center of the storm is a calm area called "the eye of the hurricane" where there is no rain and no wind. But winds around the eye can reach speeds up to 300km/h (188 mph). A cyclone pumps about 2 million tons of air per second. Thus more rain can fall in one day than in a year in a city famous for rainy weather such as London. A cyclone moves at speeds of 15 to 50 km/h. When it reaches a cooler area, the eye disapears quickly and the storm fades away.

CLICK to enlarge.The cyclone's deadly companion is actually the surf. that is the huge flow of sea water lifted by these powerful winds. Warning signs such as stormy surf can appear a week before the cyclone itself hits. External winds move faster that the strom and cause waves up to 4-meter (12 ft) high near the shores. When a cyclone come near land, huge waves propelled by the wind break on the shores. The effect of these waves is enormous. Low coastal areas, as in the atolls, can be wiped out by powerful tidal waves. Many homes can thus be destroyed in a few minutes, not to mention the extreme danger faced by the population. Throughout Polynesian islands, the people seem to have a sixth sense when it comes to cyclones. Everybody takes their own responsibilities, help their neighbors and, except for spectacular material damages, there are few casualties when a cyclone hits Polynesia.

The threat of cyclones is permanent in French Polynesia during the affected months. Since the 1983 cyclones, which destroyed a great part of our islands, constructiion standards have been imposed. The Government, especially in remote islands, supplies specific drawings and materials to build home that can resist to winds exceeding 200 km/h (125 mph).

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