February 19, 2016

Fiji in the Path of 200 mph Cyclone Winston

Tropical Cyclone Winston has already headed east across the South Pacific past Fiji. Now he has suddenly reversed direction and is heading directly for Fiji where he is expected to arrive as a category 5 storm. Here is the current Joint Typhoon Warning Center forecast track for Winston:

The UK Met Office produced a bulletin about Winston earlier today, which points out that:

The southern hemisphere tropical cyclone season normally runs from November to April and so far this season activity in the South Pacific Ocean has been relatively low. Just two tropical cyclones have formed which have reached the equivalent of hurricane strength – Ula and Victor.

Almost 10 days ago Tropical Storm Winston formed just to the east of Vanuatu in the South Pacific. The storm initially moved southwards passing to the west of Fiji with winds strengthening to more than 100 mph. Winston then started to weaken, but instead of continuing on a track towards higher latitudes, made an unusual turn north-eastwards. Despite weakening to a tropical storm as it did so Winston brought heavy rain to parts of Tonga earlier this week. Having stalled just south of Samoa, Winston then started to restrengthen and made another sharp turn towards the west.

The latest forecast track takes the centre of the cyclone initially across the smaller eastern islands of Fiji and eventually over its largest island of Viti Levu which includes the capital Suva. Winston is likely to maintain its current intensity and bring up to 400mm rain. The combination of strong winds, heavy rain and storm surge are likely to produce damage and destruction to the islands this weekend.

Here's what the latest JTWC bulletin has to say:

WARNING POSITION:
191200Z — NEAR 17.3S 177.5W
MOVEMENT PAST SIX HOURS – 275 DEGREES AT 15 KTS
POSITION ACCURATE TO WITHIN 020 NM
POSITION BASED ON EYE FIXED BY SATELLITE
MAX SUSTAINED WINDS – 125 KT, GUSTS 150 KT

TROPICAL CYCLONE (TC) 11P (WINSTON), LOCATED APPROXIMATELY 239 NM EAST OF SUVA, FIJI, HAS TRACKED WESTWARD AT 15 KNOTS OVER THE PAST SIX HOURS.

THE INITIAL INTENSITY IS ASSESSED AT 125 KNOTS BASED UPON DVORAK CURRENT INTENSITY ESTIMATES OF T6.5 (127 KNOTS) FROM MULTIPLE AGENCIES. UPPER LEVEL ANALYSIS INDICATES A FAVORABLE ENVIRONMENT WITH DUAL CHANNEL OUTFLOW AND WEAK (5 TO 10 KNOTS) VERTICAL WIND SHEAR (VWS).

THE SYSTEM IS CURRENTLY FORECAST TO MAKE LANDFALL ALONG THE EAST COAST OF FIJI AROUND TAU 24, WITH AN INTENSITY BETWEEN 125 AND 130 KNOTS. AFTER TAU 24, THE SYSTEM WILL BEGIN TO WEAKEN DUE TO LAND INTERACTIONS.

Here's how Winston looked from the Suomi satellite yesterday:

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Comments on Fiji in the Path of 200 mph Cyclone Winston »

February 19, 2016

Jim @ 11:32 pm

The latest JWTC bulletin predicts even higher wind speeds:

WARNING POSITION:
191800Z — NEAR 17.2S 178.9W
MOVEMENT PAST SIX HOURS – 275 DEGREES AT 13 KTS
POSITION ACCURATE TO WITHIN 010 NM
POSITION BASED ON EYE FIXED BY SATELLITE
PRESENT WIND DISTRIBUTION:
MAX SUSTAINED WINDS – 145 KT, GUSTS 175 KT

WINSTON IS FORECAST TO CONTINUE TO STRENGTHEN OVER THE NEXT 12 HOURS AS UPPER LEVEL CONDITIONS AND SSTS REMAIN EXTREMELY FAVORABLE, PEAKING AT 160 KNOTS JUST PRIOR TO MAKING LANDFALL ALONG THE EAST COAST OF THE NORTHERN FIJI ISLANDS.

February 20, 2016

Jim @ 9:01 am

This morning Winston's winds are even stronger than predicted last night:

WARNING POSITION:
200600Z — NEAR 17.4S 178.7E
MOVEMENT PAST SIX HOURS – 260 DEGREES AT 14 KTS
POSITION ACCURATE TO WITHIN 015 NM
POSITION BASED ON EYE FIXED BY SATELLITE
PRESENT WIND DISTRIBUTION:
MAX SUSTAINED WINDS – 155 KT, GUSTS 190 KT

TROPICAL CYCLONE (TC) 11P (WINSTON), LOCATED APPROXIMATELY 45 NM NORTH-NORTHEAST OF SUVA, FIJI, HAS TRACKED WESTWARD AT 14 KNOTS OVER THE PAST SIX HOURS. ANIMATED ENHANCED INFRARED (EIR) SATELLITE IMAGERY DEPICTS A FAIRLY SYMMETRIC CONVECTIVE STRUCTURE WITH A 14-NM EYE THAT HAS BECOME SLIGHTLY RAGGED AS IT NEARS THE FIJI COASTLINE. OVER THE PAST FEW FRAMES THE SYSTEM HAS GAINED A SLIGHT SOUTHERLY COMPONENT TO ITS WESTWARD MOVEMENT AND HAS MADE LANDFALL ALONG THE NORTHERN EDGE OF THE MAIN ISLAND OF VITI LEVU, FIJI.

Here's how he looked from the Himawari 8 geostationary satellite at 04:00 UTC this morning, as the sun was going down over Fiji:

The Government of Fiji has declared a State of Natural Disaster across the whole nation:

The National Disaster Management has advised that a total public curfew will take effect across the country today from 6.00pm.

This latest measure is designed to restrict movement and ensure the safety of all Fijians. Only essentials services will be permitted to travel.

This curfew will take place until further notice.

Emergency bulletins are being issued on the Facebook page of the Ministry of Rural & Maritime Development and National Disaster Management:

https://www.facebook.com/developmentfiji/

Please contact the following numbers for updates:
National Emergency Operation Centre: 331 9250
Northern Division: 8811322/8811005
Central Division: 3477000
Western Division: 6281553
Eastern: 3216466

Here's Winston's current forecast track:

Jim @ 5:23 pm

As if the population of Fiji didn't already have enough to worry about there now comes news from the United States Geological Survey of what seems to be two earthquakes in quick succession in the region:

M5.8 – 155km SSW of Ndoi Island, Fiji

followed by an aftershock:

M5.2 – 156km SSW of Ndoi Island, Fiji

Fortunately in all the circumstances they were very deep in the Earth's crust.

Jim @ 8:26 pm

Winston's wind speeds have dropped a bit as he interacts with the islands of Fiji, but the resulting waves have got bigger. The latest JWTC bulletin states:

WARNING POSITION:
201800Z — NEAR 17.4S 175.8E
MOVEMENT PAST SIX HOURS – 270 DEGREES AT 11 KTS
POSITION ACCURATE TO WITHIN 035 NM
POSITION BASED ON CENTER LOCATED BY SATELLITE
MAX SUSTAINED WINDS – 130 KT, GUSTS 160 KT

ANIMATED ENHANCED INFRARED SATELLITE IMAGERY DEPICTS A CLOUD COVERED EYE FEATURE THAT IS JUST STARTING TO REEMERGE AFTER PASSING OVER VITI LEVU, FIJI. ANIMATED RADAR IMAGERY AND A 201803Z SSMIS 91 GHZ MICROWAVE IMAGE DEPICT A COMPACT, WELL-
DEFINED EYE FEATURE SUPPORTING THE INITIAL POSITION WITH HIGH CONFIDENCE.

THE CURRENT ENVIRONMENT REMAINS FAVORABLE WITH 10 TO 15 KNOT VERTICAL WIND SHEAR (VWS) OFFSET BY STRONG DIVERGENCE ALOFT AND SEA SURFACE TEMPERATURES (SSTS) OF 30 CELSIUS. TC WINSTON CONTINUES TO TRACK WESTWARD UNDER THE STEERING INFLUENCE OF A DEEP LAYERED SUB-TROPICAL RIDGE (STR) TO THE SOUTH-SOUTHWEST. OVER THE NEXT 12 TO 24 HOURS THE CYCLONE WILL MAINTAIN ITS CURRENT INTENSITY AS THE ENVIRONMENT WILL REMAIN FAVORABLE THROUGH THIS PERIOD.

MAXIMUM SIGNIFICANT WAVE HEIGHT AT 201800Z IS 40 FEET.

Here's how Winston currently looks from on high:

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