Friday, February 5, 2010

Cyclone Oli Hits Tahiti

Between 9pm Wednesday night and 10am Thursday morning Tahitian authorities banned driving on Tahiti and Moorea in anticipation of Cyclone Oli. Winds built up consistently throughout Wednesday but the storm hit us full force in the pitch black of night. It was terrifying. I had my kids in my bed with me in my room on the protected side of the house but none of us slept. Between the storm's noise, the stress and the heat, it was impossible. I found myself getting up several times to check on how the doors were holding and to check on my cats and dogs. The cats actually made a bigger mess and ruckus inside the house than the storm but the major damage to us was in the yard where several of my trees blew over.

The winds seemed just as strong by daylight but the news on RFO (Radio France Overseas)assured us the worse had passed. We went out and shot this video at around 8am.

Despite what a shambles French Polynesia's politics are in right now, the country was superbly organized when dealing with Cyclone Oli. RFO broadcasted 24 hours a day keeping everyone up to date, hotlines were installed and a few thousand people were evacuated from their homes. The worst news I heard was that some people on Tahiti's east coast were afraid to evacuate because a group of young people were going around and robbing people's vacated homes. How evil is that? But overall people helped each other out and there was an extremely strong sense of community during the crisis.

EDT (Electricite de Tahiti) were also heroes and spent over 10 hours into the middle of the night repairing the electric poles that had been taken down by trees in my small community of a few hundred people. There was still a lot of wind into the night last night (I had another tree get blown over - a 5m high soursop tree - after I shot this video) but now at 5am on Friday, it's dead calm. The storm hit the Austral Islands last night with estimated wind speeds of up to 250 km/hr and 9 meter ocean swell. My thoughts have been with them all night and I have not yet heard news of the dammage.

Once again iMovie is blocking me from adding subtitles so you'll have to make do with my translations below.

White pickup truck scene:
There are cops down there so you'll get a ticket if they catch you driving. [note: the fine was 16,100 CFP, about US$185]
And there's no store, it's closed so don't bother.

Interview with Lesta:
Lesta: No we didn't sleep, we stayed up. At about 3am I found my boat on top of my greenhouse, my vanilla greenhouse. It went up like that on to my greenhouse.


  1. Thanks for the update. It's good to hear you guys are ok!

    I'm worrying about Tubuai (I lived there for 6 months), and there aren't any updates anywhere yet about how their little island fared through the storm. Please let me know if you hear anything!

  2. Hi Ry and glad to pass on the news. The eye passed over Tubuai this morning and they took down phone and satellite for safety reasons I've heard. There have been floods at last reports but everyone in danger was evacuated. If everything has been handled as well as it has in the rest of the islands I think everyone in Tubuai will be OK. Wow 6 months there! Would love to hear your stories.

  3. Thanks for the reassurance, Celeste. I keep checking tahitipresse for updates, but it looks like the communication lines must still be down.

    The people of Tubuai are the happiest and most hardworking people I've ever known, so I'm sure they'll pull through this just fine.

  4. You poor things - you must have been petrified. Hope the clean up isn't too brutal. Your house looks idyllic (when there's no wind!). Glad to hear you are all OK.

  5. Bonsoir Celeste,

    We were just watching the news (here in France) about la Polynesie and hope that you are all okay...
    I spent a month visiting 6 islands back in '04 and Polynesia has a special place in my heart...
    Take care,



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