Severe tropical cyclone Evan is sliding against Fiji’s north west corner with latest rain radar image from Fiji confirming the centre of the storm now hitting the north west coastline.
Reports of gusts exceeding 155km/h are also coming in from Nadi as the belt of hurricane force winds pushes into western Fiji.
WeatherWatch.co.nz says the cyclone doesn’t have a clearly defined eye on the satellite images but rain radar cuts through the cloud and clearly shows an eye touching the north west coastline. The worst of the winds wrap around the so called ‘eye’ while inside the centre winds tend to be calm.
The rain radar image at 2pm shows the eye just northwet of Nadi / Fiji Met
It’s the inner eye where the air pressure plummets – estimates put the air pressure down around 945hPa although there are conflicting reports.
“The Fiji MetService site is overloading, which it doesn’t fairly frequently and makes finding information very tricky” says head weather analyst Philip Duncan. “We often use more than once source and the Joint Typhoon Warning Centre operated by the US Government is estimating Evan is now a category 5 cyclone”.
However a strong category 4 cyclone is similar to a weak category 5. “People shouldn’t get hooked on the category status, as regardless this is a major cyclone at the highest end”.
Mr Duncan says Evan is currently crossing the Yasawa islands and will continue to blast Nadi for the rest of the day.
The storm surge alone is expected to completely inundate some coastal communities, resorts and low lying islands says WeatherWatch.co.nz.
Mr Duncan says Evan will continue to bring torrential rain, huge seas and hurricane force winds to Fiji for the next 24 to 36 hours before it heads south towards New Zealand and weakens significantly.
“We have high confidence Evan will make it to New Zealand but he will be unravelling by then. If he unravels before making landfall in New Zealand we can expect a couple of wet, windy, days in the north. If it unravels over the upper North Island we may have some severe weather warnings around Christmas Eve”.
WeatherWatch.co.nz says more will be known about Evan’s impact on New Zealand around Tuesday or Wednesday but that either way the storm was expected to fizzle out around Christmas Day or Boxing Day.