Tuvalu News

High Tides Flood Funafuti

March 04, 2006

Brian Cannon
TIDC Tala o Tuvalu

Tuvalu high tides
Nui Maneapa, Funafuti, February 28, 2006
Photo copyright (C)2005 Monise Laafai

As predicted by Australian scientists working for the South Pacific Sea Level and Climate
Monitoring Project, the highest tide over the period 1990 to 2016 was reached at 17:26 Tuvalu time on the 28th February 2006.

The tide was predicted to be 3.24 metres above chart datum zero, the standard datum used to measure the elevation of tides. Reports from Tuvalu indicate the tide actually rose closer to 3.4 metres. While Tides up to 3.0 metres are not uncommon, the yearly average is around 2.6 metres.

Fortunately for Funafuti, the weather was good at the time, as high winds and rain would have compounded the problem, as what happened around the same time last year.

Several journalists were on hand to report the event, including Brisbane Australia-based Dr Mark Hayes, who put together a report on the 2005 high tides for TuvaluIslands.com.

On the TuvaluIslands.com Yahoo Message Board, Dr Hayes wrote that "the weirdest part of what happened, from my point of view, was how fast sea water seeped out of the ground, and how fast some of the borrow pits flooded (over)".

Tuvalu high tides
One of the Borrow Pits , Funafuti, February 28, 2006
Photo copyright (C)2005 Monise Laafai

The borrow pits that Dr Hayes refers to are areas of Funafuti that were excavated by the Americans during World War II in order to build the airport runway. The areas around these pits are where most of the flooding occurs during high tides and storm surges.

Fortunately the main government area of Vaiaku was not hit very hard, as Tuvaluan Tito Isala reported the following on the Yahoo Board:

"I walked along the main road towards the old Post Office as far as Tokotuu, then towards the lagoon and then actually to the lagoon behind Valoa's house. Except for a small stretch of the sides (yes, only the sides of the) road from Peifaga's house to the Tokotuu, the rest of the roads where I had wandered were as dry as any desert road. That stretch of road by Tokotuu is usually under water at high tide, almost any high tide. The sea behind Valoa's house did not encroach on to the land. That was also true of the the hotel lagoon side (I actually went there). The lagoon road by the Vaiaku EKT chapel was as dry as any desert road. The sea had risen to within about 18 inches of the top of the Vaiaku wharf but did not wash over at all as it did in January this year (due to the weather)".

Tuvalu high tides
Children on flooded road , Funafuti, February 28, 2006. Photo copyright (C)2006 Monise Laafai

Another Tuvaluan, Monise Laafai, went to the area around the borrow pits at the north-east part of Fogafale and posted the following in response to Mr Isala's comments:

"Things were not as dry elsewhere. Molu Tavita (next to Panapasi) didn't have to go anywhere to catch dinner. He netted quite a school of tilapia (fish) in his kitchen. Nukufetau (tennis) court went totally under water. And when I was there someone was fishing out two drowned pigs, right size for barbecue."

"The areas surrounding Faihouloto and Fakaifou church were also under water a foot deep. Tema’s house also felt victim with the entire house under 4-6 inches of water. The neighbouring houses were slighter higher and they survived.

But most spectacular is my friend Jeff’s floating castle. I got there to find all the kids from the neighborhood enjoying their afternoon swim – in his verandah. And this also served beautifully as their diving board."

"Anyway, I noted something peculiarly odd in the water levels in some places. For instance, when the water had subsided considerably around the Lotonui/Panapasi areas, the water around our pig pens (ocean side of airstrip) had just started rising….and almost damned drown my stock."

At the other end of the scale, the low tides were of course well below average, and fell to 0.94 metres above chart datum zero. Reports from Funafuti Saute (south Funafuti), known for its sandy beaches and shallow lagoon area, the complete area between Funafala and Telele was almost void any water, a rare occurence.


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