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A grinch in paradise: Category 4 Tropical Cyclone Evan slams Fiji

By: Dr. Jeff Masters, 4:17 PM GMT on December 17, 2012

Mighty Category 4 Tropical Cyclone Evan walloped Fiji with sustained winds of 135 mph, torrential rains, and a dangerous storm surge on Sunday. Evan intensified markedly from a Category 3 storm with 115 mph winds to a Category 4 with 135 mph winds as it approached Fiji, and Evan's southern eyewall--the most intense part of the storm--brought hurricane conditions to a long stretch of the north and west coasts of Fiji's main island, Viti Levu. Preliminary media reports indicate that damage is very heavy on Fiji, but no lives have been lost. According to a database maintained by NOAA's Coastal Service Center, Evan is the strongest tropical cyclone on record to affect Fiji's main island, with records going back to 1941. The tourist town of Nadi on the northwest coast experienced sustained winds of 69 mph, gusting to 104 mph during Evan's passage, but did not experience the calm of the eye. Several smaller islands with popular surf resorts just offshore from Nadi did experience a direct hit, and damage is undoubtedly very severe on those islands. Evan is now over colder waters with higher wind shear, and satellite loops show a deterioration of the cloud pattern. Evan is expected to weaken below hurricane strength and transition to an extratropical storm before reaching New Zealand on Thursday. The most devastating cyclone to affect Fiji in recent decades was Category 2 Cyclone Kina, which killed 23 people and did $100 million in damage in January 1993. The only deadlier storm was Category 3 Cyclone Eric of 1985, which made a direct hit on the capital of Suva and killed 25.

Figure 1. Radar image from the Fiji weather service showing the large eye of Tropical Cyclone Evan just north of Fiji at 2:50 pm local time (02:50 UTC) on Monday, December 17, 2012. At the time, the city of Nadi was in the southern eyewall of Evan, and recorded sustained winds of 52 mph, gusting to 104 mph. Sustained winds at Nadi increased to 69 mph three hours later.

Figure 2. Tracks of all Category 1 and stronger tropical cyclones to pass within 100 miles of Fiji's main island of Viti Levu since 1941. Evan is the strongest cyclone on record to pass so close to the main island of Fiji. Image credit: NOAA's Coastal Service Center.

Severe damage in Samoa from Evan
Evan made landfall on the north shore of Samoa near the capital of Apia on Thursday as a Category 1 cyclone with 90 mph winds, and intensified into a Category 3 storm with 115 mph winds after the eye wandered back offshore late Thursday. Media reports indicate that Evan killed four and has left eight missing on Samoa, with 4,000 homeless. The main power plant for Samoa was destroyed, and it is expected that power will be out to almost all of Samoa for at least ten more days. Evan was one of Samoa's most destructive tropical cyclones on record, as discussed by wunderground's weather historian, Christopher C. Burt. After devastating Samoa, Evan smashed through the French territorial islands of Wallis and Futuna, causing major damage but no deaths or injuries.

Figure 3. Residents affected by Typhoon Bopha crowd as relief goods are distributed at New Bataan township, Compostela Valley, in the southern Philippines, Sunday Dec. 9, 2012. (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez)

Death toll from Super Typhoon Bopha rises above 1,000
In the Philippines, officials are still tallying the dead from deadly Super Typhoon Bopha, locally known as Pablo, which made landfall three times as it passed through northern Mindanao, central Visayas, and Palawan on December 4. The typhoon is now being blamed for at least 1020 deaths, making it the deadliest storm on the planet during 2012. At least 844 people are still missing and presumed dead. Bopha affected over 5.4 million people and left over 700,000 people homeless.

Jeff Masters


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