UPDATED 1:05am NZT (midnight Fiji Time) — Severe Cyclone Winston remains a Category 5 cyclone as of this update and is quite quickly tracking west away from the main island of Viti Levu.
Earlier on Saturday evening, around 7pm, the eye of Cyclone Winston made landfall in northern Viti Levu. It remained over land for about an hour before moving back out to sea again. The eye of the storm basically skimmed the north of the main island.
As of 1am Sunday NZT WeatherWatch.co.nz estimated the eye of Cyclone Winston to be about 70kms NW of Nadi – tracking west away from Nadi at 20 to 25km/h.
As we head through the very early hours of Sunday morning the central air pressure of Cyclone Winston was around 915hPa. The centre of the storm is now well NW of Nadi but damaging winds and heavy rain may remain in the area for a few more hours.
The cyclone has sustained winds of 230km/h with gusts to 325km/h according to Fiji Met.
Winston is the strongest tropical cyclone on record to make landfall in Fiji with winds of 290km/h.
Cyclone Winston is generating waves of 12 metres, or 40 feet, around the eye according to the Joint Typhoon Center.
WeatherWatch.co.nz says the destructive area of winds around the eye stretches 500kms across and is about as large as Fiji’s two main islands combined. With the eye of the storm earlier tracking across the northern coastline WeatherWatch.co.nz says the top half of the Fiji’s main island was exposed to the most destructive winds, storm surges and torrential rain – but as the cyclone moves west out to sea the severe or destructive weather over land will ease, most likely before dawn for many areas. Suva, to the south east, may have been spared the bulk of the destructive winds.
As of 1am New Zealand Time (12am Fiji Time) the eye of Severe Cat 5 Cyclone Winston was tracking west at around 20 to 25km/h…this is a fairly fast movement west and means the centre of storm should be clearing Fiji well before dawn, and state forecasts.
The fast movement over Fiji means damage may also be more limited – but we won’t know until daylight what the potential damage is.
Severe weather will ease across Sunday morning in Fiji. The more Winston tracks west, the further the stormy weather goes out to sea away from Fiji and away from Nadi.
The highest risks for Nadi have peaked, or are peaking – and should ease back over the next few hours. Now some of the outer islands to the west have been directly hit, or closely hit. On Sunday, during daylight hours, Winston may not pose much of a weather threat to many places but dangerous seas will be expected around Fiji with more rain and wind for some.
The south west movement of the cyclone around dusk on Saturday meant hotels in Nadi started evacuating guests into safe rooms as a direct hit from the eye looked more likely. It got within 40kms of Nadi to the north after stopping it’s direct SW track and returning to a Westerly track. The ‘wobble’ off the predicted track is normal when storms are so big and spinning so intensely. The shift further south was unfortunate though – as it exposed more people to dangerous weather, especially in the north half of the main island.
With the cyclone now located NW of Nadi and tracking W the gap between the centre of Winston and Nadi itself is quickly widening – but the area is still being brushed, or hit, by some of the worst of the weather. We won’t know until dawn if the Nadi area has been somewhat hit, or catastrophically hit in parts – it’s a very close call, but hopefully Winston was just far enough north to spare the area.
This is the last of our live updating, now that Winston is tracking away from the main island. This morning, with the storm out at sea, there won’t be a lot more to report from a forecasting or live weather point of view. However our Winston updates will continue as the storm tracks away from Fiji today, and we look more into the future about whether or not the North Island is at risk from a hit in several days time…although we may not be able to lock that in until early next week.
For further Winston weather updates in the meantime, please visit the Fiji Met website (please note, the site can be very slow and sometimes not open).
RIDING IT OUT WITH HUNDREDS OF OTHERS IN NADI
NZME colleague Ben Rose is currently in Nadi and says they were evacuated into a safe room around 7pm. “Can hear the wind and rain the big wooden doors that are battened down are right next to us”.
Storm proofing inside Sofitel Denerau, Nadi / Ben Rose.
“All on lock down in the ballroom no panic everyone is relatively relaxed at this point” says Ben. “Staff are coming around with water, tea coffee etc. It’s eerily quite relaxed in here to be honest, can’t begin to imagine the carnage happening right now outside in parts of the island”.
Photo from Ben Rose inside Sofitel Denerau – taken 10pm hour NZT (9pm Fiji time)
Midnight update from Ben Rose “It’s definitely intensifying! Rain’s a lot harder, gusts more frequent!”
LATEST AVAILABLE RAIN RADAR IMAGE (delayed by 30 mins due to Fijian Govt – 12am FIJI TIME/1am NZT)
The Fiji Met Service has lost some radar observations, so the storm appears much weaker than it really is in the single image above. The remaining single radar image comes from Nadi Intl. Image / Fiji Met.
The storm is tracking much faster than state forecasters predicted – WeatherWatch.co.nz says the worst is now happening in the north west of the main island and will gradually start to ease in the next couple of hours. Heavy downpours and strong winds will continue, but not on the same potentially damaging level.
WeatherWatch.co.nz helping Fijian media via Auckland media
Auckland based radio station Radio Tarana told WeatherWatch.co.nz this evening in a live interview that they were relaying WeatherWatch forecasts and news updates on the severe cyclone to some Fijian media outlets because of ‘communication problems’ with those Fijian based media outlets and their state forecaster, Fiji Met Service.