Hurricane warning canceled for American Samoa after storm passes nearby but doesn’t make land

By Fili Sagapolutele, AP
Saturday, February 13, 2010

Hurricane warning canceled for American Samoa

PAGO PAGO, American Samoa — Forecasters in American Samoa canceled a hurricane warning for the U.S. territory early Saturday morning after a strong Pacific storm passed nearby without making landfall on the area still recovering from a deadly autumn tsunami.

Tropical Cyclone Rene was 70 miles southeast of the main island of Tutuila and moving southwest at 8 mph on a track away from the islands, said Meteorologist Mase Akapo Jr. with the National Weather Service in Pago Pago.

Strong winds from the storm were still expected to batter the territory, which prompted forecasters to replace the hurricane warning with a gale warning that predicted winds of 30 to 45 mph, he said.

“The public still needs to continue to take precautionary measures due to the strong winds,” Akapo said, adding that the high surf will continue, with waves of 15 to 18 feet expected through Saturday evening.

“We are still faced with high waves,” he said.

Heavy rain fell on parts of Tutuila, the territory’s most populous island, early Saturday morning, and some low-lying areas were flooded.

Rene never made landfall on either Tutuila or the Manu’a island group, but the government planned to conduct an assessment on Saturday to find out if any damage was cause by the storm.

Several Manu’a residents reached earlier by phone by The Associated Press said the winds had been extremely strong but they have not heard of any reports of injuries or major damage. Telephone links, however, have been intermittent, and it was difficult to assess damage because it was still dark.

Emergency officials in the capital of Pago Pago said there were reports that high winds had downed some trees and electrical lines. The officials also said there was one death indirectly caused by Rene — a 50-year-old man died Friday morning after falling from a two-story building while boarding it up to protect it from the storm.

Territorial Gov. Togiola Tulafono called for calm, urging residents to “be aware and be safe.”

Referring to the tsunami that killed more than 200 people in the Samoan islands and Tonga in September, Gulafono said “as we recover from the events of last September 29th, it is a good feeling that we have placed high priority to help ourselves by preparing and spreading the emergency awareness message.”

Associated Press Writers Ray Lilley in Wellington, New Zealand, and Audrey McAvoy in Honolulu contributed to this report.

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