The tropical depression, which hit Fiji yesterday and is bearing down on Tonga, has been upgraded to a Category 1 cyclone.
Cook Islands Meteorological Service said it was moving southeast at 15 knots.
The worst is to come for the island groups in the area, with sustained winds close to the centre expected to increase to 50 knots.
According to media reports in Fiji, evacuation centres have been opened in northern Fiji as the intensifying Cyclone Tino approaches. Preparations were also underway in Tonga’s capital of Nukualofa.
Cook Islands Met Service predicts it will intensify to a Category 2 this morning.
Arona Ngari, director at Cook Islands Met Service, says locals can expect northerly gail forces winds and rough seas from the west and north-west, starting to pick up this evening and lasting until Sunday.
The expectation was that it wouldn’t reach the heights of ex-cyclone Sarai, at New Year.
Business owners in Arorangi are preparing for the worst. Phillip Nordt, owner of On The Beach restaurant said: “We are just making sure that we are ready with manpower and being on site monitoring exactly what’s happening.”
Nordt knows all too well the impacts of the tail end of a cyclone. On New Year’s day his restaurant was one of the worst affected by Cyclone Sarai, whose large waves rushed through the restaurant’s dining area, bar and swimming pool leaving mounds of debris in its wake.
But he said boarding up at this time was not a sensible idea.
“We have cleared the area properly to ensure that there is no debris in the way that can be ejected into the premises. So you have to do a good clean up to make sure that you can let the water go its way.
“Anything in-between will actually make a bigger mess and enforce it and give you a bigger hit then if you weren’t too. You have to let the water take its path.”
People are being urged to be cautious over the next couple of days and to take precautionary measures such as planning evacuation routes. Met Service is also issuing a warning for the public to be cautious of high tides at 9.20am and 9.30pm today.
Saturday high tides will be at 10am and 10.20pm, in Rarotonga.