Extreme Weather Event: Severe Tropical Cyclone Winston-16, Southern Pacific, Fiji, Vanuatu
Winston (was 11P- Southwestern Pacific Ocean) Feb. 21, 2016
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NASA satellites provided data on Tropical Cyclone Winston before and after it made an historic landfall in eastern Fiji. The GPM, Suomi NPP and Aqua satellites provided forecasters with data that showed rainfall, strength and extent of the storm.
Tropical Cyclone Winston made landfall on Feb. 20 in Vitu Levi, eastern Fiji as a Category 5 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale. Winston was the first cyclone of that strength to make landfall in Fiji in recorded history.
The Fiji Meteorological Service estimated wind gusts near Winston’s center over 200 mph. On Feb. 20 at 0900 UTC (4 a.m. EST) after landfall, the Joint Typhoon Warning Center noted that Winston’s maximum sustained winds were near 155 knots (178.4 mph/287.1 kph) gusting to 190 knots (218.6 mph/351.9 kph).
The Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) core observatory satellite flew directly above tropical cyclone Winston on February 20, 2016 at 0941 UTC (4:41 a.m. EST). Tropical cyclone Winston had sustained winds estimated at 155 knots (178.4 mph/287.1 kph) at that time. A rainfall analysis derived from data collected by GPM’s Microwave Imager (GMI) and Dual-frequency Precipitation Radar (DPR) instruments found that in addition to powerful winds Winston was dropping rain at a rate of over 169 mm (6.7 inches) per hour in the western side of the eye. Tropical cyclone Winston is the most powerful storm to hit Fiji.
On Saturday, February 20, 2016 the Fiji government declared a State of Natural Disaster for Fiji for the next 30 days. That means that the government will send support to ensure the safety of members of the public, businesses, economy and national assets. The declaration means that police can now arrest people without warrant who fail to abide by the law.
On Feb. 21 at 02:15 UTC (Feb. 20 at 9:15 p.m. EST) the MODIS (Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer) instrument aboard NASA’s Aqua satellite captured a visible image of Tropical Cyclone Winston in the South Pacific Ocean, west of Fiji. Even after passing over Fiji, Winston maintained an eye.
By 0900 UTC (4 a.m. EST) that day, seven hours after NASA’s Aqua satellite captured an image of Tropical cyclone Winston, the storm still maintained maximum sustained winds near 125 knots (143.8 mph/231.5 kph) down from 130 knots (149.6 mph/240.8 kph) just 12 hours before. It was located about 253 nautical miles (291.3 miles/468.9 km) west of Suva, Fiji near 17.6 degrees south latitude and 174.0 degrees east longitude and was moving west-southwest.
On Feb. 22 at 0200 UTC (Feb. 21 at 9 p.m. EST) the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) instrument aboard NASA-NOAA’s Suomi NPP satellite captured this visible image of Tropical Cyclone Winston between Vanuatu to the west and Fiji to the east. Although still a hurricane, Winston’s 20 nautical-mile-wide (23 miles/37 km) eye had become cloud-filled.
Joint Typhoon Warning Center said that the University of Wisconsin-Madison Cooperative Institute for Meteorological Satellite Studies microwave total precipitable water loop “indicates a band of dry air currently being entrained into the cyclone hindering further Intensification.”
By 1500 GMT (10 a.m. EST) Winston’s maximum sustained winds dropped to 90 knots (103.6 mph/166.7 kph) making it a Category 2 hurricane. Scatterometry satellite data showed that the hurricane-force winds extend 30 nautical miles (34 miles/55 km) from the center. It was located about 348 nautical miles (400.5 miles/644.5 km) west of Suva, Fiji near 18.2 degrees south latitude and 172.3 degrees east longitude. Winston was moving to the south slowly at 3 knots (3.4 mph/5.5 kph).
The JTWC noted that Winston will maintain current intensity for about a day because it is still over warm sea surface temperatures. Thereafter, Winston will begin weakening and eventually become sub-tropical south of New Caledonia.
The GPM satellite is co-managed by NASA and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, and the Suomi NPP satellite is co-managed by NASA and NOAA.
(Bloomberg) — Fiji is surveying the damage from the strongest tropical cyclone to ever hit the South Pacific nation, with at least three people reported to have been killed and whole villages flattened as the storm tracked across the archipelago.
A state of natural disaster is in place across Fiji and a curfew imposed on Saturday evening local time won’t be lifted until 5:30 a.m. on Monday, said Ilaisa Silimaibau, a spokesman for the country’s National Disaster Management Office. Strong wind and heavy rain warnings remained in force for Fiji with Tropical Cyclone Winston located about 340 kilometers (211 miles) west of Nadi, the main tourist hub, as of 3 p.m. on Sunday.
The storm, which the Fiji Meteorological Service classified a Category 5 on the five-step Australian scale, brought winds of up to 220 km an hour as it peaked over Fiji’s eastern islands, making it the most severe cyclone on record to make landfall there, according to Emma Blades, a meteorologist with MetService, New Zealand’s meteorological office.
“It was so strong that the weather stations there actually went down, they just stopped recording,” Blades said by phone from Wellington. “People were saying that roofs just popped off. I can’t even imagine what that sort of wind feels like.”
At least three people have been confirmed dead, two of them killed when the house they were in collapsed, Associated Press reported, citing the disaster management office. Police are also investigating reports of another two deaths, according to AP. All homes were destroyed in some villages, the Australian newspaper said, citing Twitter posts from Jone Tuiipelehaki, a communications officer for the United Nations Development Program.
More than 2,000 people have taken refuge in evacuation centers throughout Fiji, which has a population of about 900,000, as officials and aid agencies start to assess the scope of the cleanup. All schools will be closed for a week to check for damage and universities will shut Monday until further notice, according to Fiji government announcements on Facebook.
New Zealand sent an air-force plane early Sunday to assist Fiji with surveying the impact, amid evidence of major damage on the northern coast of Viti Levu, the country’s biggest and most populated island, Foreign Minister Murray McCully said in an e- mailed statement.
His Australian counterpart, Julie Bishop, offered assistance and is advising all citizens to avoid traveling to Fiji, which counts tourism as its biggest industry. At least 1,300 Australians are registered as being in the country with the Department of Foreign Affairs & Trade, but the number is likely to be much higher, Bishop told the Australian Broadcasting Corp. on Sunday. Air carriers including Fiji Airways and Virgin Australia Holdings Ltd. canceled flights to and from Nadi over the weekend.
Photos posted on the government’s Facebook page showed flooding and uprooted trees in central Nadi, which is on the western side of Viti Levu. In Lautoka, Fiji’s second-largest city, entire houses were ripped apart and power poles felled. Red Cross workers are out assessing the damage, according to Twitter posts. Ahmad Sami, the acting chief of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies in Fiji, described it in an online video as the nation’s “worst disaster ever.”
Winston hit outlying islands in neighboring Tonga last week before circling back toward Fiji. The cyclone was likely to continue west across the Pacific Ocean on Sunday before moving south, meaning it could potentially head toward New Zealand, though probably in a more weakened form, according to Blades at the MetService in Wellington.
More than 20 people were killed in March last year as Cyclone Pam, another Category 5 storm, hit directly into Vanuatu, about 750 miles northwest of Fiji.
©2016 Bloomberg News, via gCaptain – February 21, 2016