The Department of State alerts U.S. citizens residing in or traveling to the South Pacific region about the ongoing threat of tropical cyclones affecting the area.
While tropical cyclones in the South Pacific may occur throughout the year, the current South Pacific Tropical Cyclone Season begins on November 1, 2014, and ends April 30, 2015. U.S. citizens living in or traveling to the region should monitor local weather reports and take other appropriate action as needed. This Travel Alert expires on April 30, 2015.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration recommends that people living or traveling in regions prone to tropical storms and tropical cyclones be prepared. For further information about tropical cyclone preparedness, please visit NOAA’s Tropical Cyclones Preparedness Guide. For further information on tropical cyclone warnings in the South Pacific region, please consult the Joint Typhoon Warning Center in Honolulu the National Weather Service’s Central Pacific Hurricane Center, Fiji’s regional meteorological center responsible for tropical cyclone warnings in the South Pacific region, or the Government of Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology.
During and after some previous storms, U.S. citizens traveling abroad encountered dangerous and often uncomfortable conditions that lasted for several days while they awaited transportation to the United States. In the past, many U.S. citizens were forced to delay travel (including return travel to the United States) due to infrastructure damage to airports and limited flight availability. Roads were also washed out or obstructed by debris, adversely affecting access to airports and land routes out of affected areas. Reports of looting and sporadic violence in the aftermath of natural disasters have occurred. Security personnel may not always be readily available to assist. In the event of a cyclone, you should be aware that you may not be able to depart the area for 24-48 hours or longer, particularly if you are residing in or visiting a South Pacific Island country where air service is limited.
You also may encounter uncomfortable and sometimes dangerous conditions after storms pass. In many places, tropical cyclones are often accompanied by damaging high tides and flooding. If you are living near or staying close to the ocean or other bodies of water, you may be at higher risk. Landslides and mudslides are also a serious concern during heavy rains. Be sure to check with local authorities for safety and security updates. Weather conditions or damage to infrastructure may delay or prevent needed assistance from U.S. embassy and host country security personnel.
If you are living in or traveling to storm-prone regions overseas during the cyclone season, we recommend you consider obtaining travel insurance to cover unexpected expenses during an emergency, as well as medical insurance with provision for emergency medical evacuations to the United States. In some instances, commercial medical evacuations can cost 100,000 USD or more and may not be covered by your regular medical insurance.
If the damage in the aftermath of a storm requires evacuation, the Department of State will work with commercial airlines to ensure that U.S. citizens may depart as safely and efficiently as possible. Commercial airlines are the Department’s primary source of transportation in an evacuation; other means of transport are utilized only as a last resort, are often more expensive, and will provide you with fewer destination options. U.S. law requires that any evacuation costs are your responsibility. For those in financial need, the U.S. Department of State has the authority to provide crisis evacuation and repatriation loans. For more information, please visit the Emergencies Abroad page on our website.
If you live in or are traveling to storm-prone regions, prepare for hurricanes and tropical storms by organizing a kit in a waterproof container that includes a supply of bottled water, non-perishable food items, a battery-powered or hand-crank radio, any medications taken regularly, and vital documents (especially your passport and other identification). Emergency shelters often provide only very basic resources and may have limited medical and food supplies. NOAA and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) have additional tips on their websites.
Monitor local radio, local media, and the National Weather Service to be aware of weather developments. Minor tropical cyclones can develop into hurricanes very quickly, limiting the time available for a safe evacuation. Inform family and friends of your whereabouts and remain in close contact with your tour operator, hotel staff, transportation providers (airlines, cruise lines, etc.), and local officials for evacuation instructions during a weather emergency.
We strongly encourage that U.S. citizens traveling abroad enroll in the Department of State’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP). STEP enrollment gives you the latest security updates, and makes it easier for the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate to contact you in an emergency. If you don’t have Internet access, enroll directly with the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate.
Regularly monitor the State Department’s website, where you can find current Travel Warnings, Travel Alerts, and the Worldwide Caution. For additional information, refer to the Traveler’s Checklist on the State Department’s website.
You will find additional information on cyclones and storm preparedness on the Bureau of Consular Affairs’ Hurricane Season – Know Before You Go website. Contact the U.S. embassy or consulate for up-to-date information on travel restrictions. You can also call 1-888-407-4747 toll-free in the United States and Canada or 1-202-501-4444 from other countries. These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays). Follow us on Twitter and Facebook to have travel information at your fingertips.