Updated (new map) — Severe category four tropical cyclone Evan is starting to push into Fiji, roaring in from Samoa in the north east reports WeatherWatch.co.nz.
The cyclone is a category 4 storm and the Fiji Met Service says it may strengthen to the maximum Cat5 rating in the next 24 hours or so.
Evan can now be clearly seen as the bright orange blob on the WeatherWatch.co.nz satellite map (right hand side of this page).
In the past 24 hours meteorologists at the Fiji Met Service have updated the predicted track Evan will take. This now takes the centre of the cyclone (where the worst of the winds are) significantly further north of both Suva and much of Fiji. However WeatherWatch.co.nz head weather analyst Philip Duncan says Fiji is still expected to get walloped by the storm over the next couple of days.
(the latest tracking from Fiji Met)
“Evan is a slow moving high-end tropical cyclone. The scale only goes up to five and Evan is four putting sustained winds at 185km/h with damaging gales stretching 185kms from the south of the centre in to Fiji’s mainland” says Mr Duncan. “Gusts may end up climbing to 280km/h or greater around the centre of Evan. To put this all in to perspective that’s stronger than the recent Hobsonville tornado but unlike the tornado this cyclone is covering a few hundred kilometres not a few hundred metres”.
But with Evan further north of the main island this could reduce the amount of wind damage to more populated centres – however damage may still be catastrophic for others in the north and north west especially. “Some small low lying communities and resorts may suffer catastrophic damage and some small islands may be entirely submerged as the storm and storm surge roll by”.
As of 1:45pm Evan still had no noticeable eye in the centre based on satellite maps. A clear eye may develop in the middle of Evan today as the system gets better organised and potentially strengthens further.
Mr Duncan says the centre of Evan looks likely to track closer to Nadi than Suva but torrential rain, which could lead to significant flooding and landslides, could affect all parts of the nation.
“Northern and north western parts of Fiji will be most impacted by the gales while the entire main island will be exposed to torrential rain which could lead to flash flooding and mudslides”.
WeatherWatch.co.nz says with Cyclone Evan tracking so closely to Fiji’s main international airport in Nadi to expect a number of flight cancellations and delays in the coming days.
Massive seas are also expected as the storm churns by. Coastal flooding could be a significant issue for some areas. The NZ Herald is reporting eight fisherman are currently missing near Samoa since the cyclone passed there at the end of last week.
Evan and New Zealand – Updated 1:45pm Sunday
Computer guidance this past week has been flip flopping about Evan’s future path after Fiji – however more models are agreeing that there is now a higher probability that Evan – or the remnants of Evan – will reach northern New Zealand next weekend.
“This is one for people in the North Island of New Zealand to watch closely as it may impact some travel and holiday plans in the lead up to Christmas” says head weather analyst Philip Duncan.
“We’re not expecting Evan to be a cyclone if it does reach New Zealand next weekend, but it may still bring damaging gales and torrential tropical rains. At the very least it’s one to monitor”.
WeatherWatch.co.nz says at this stage it’s unlikely Evan will have any significant impacts on international air travel to and from Auckland International Airport.
Mr Duncan says the risk of Evan hitting New Zealand has steadily increased over the past week. “A week ago WeatherWatch.co.nz first talked about Evan and we said there was a 20% chance of it hitting us directly. Now we place that threat at 40% and if the models continue as they are on Monday the our confidence levels will jump to 60%”.
However the cyclone will be weakening, as they do when they leave the tropics and move over cooler waters and less favourable conditions to stay powered up as it heads towards the upper North Island.
The last significant ex-cyclone to hit New Zealand was Cyclone Wilma in January 2011 bringing slips, flooding and wind damage to parts of Northland, Auckland and Coromandel Peninsula. The storm was fast moving and lasted only about 12 to 18 hours. Current models – which may change in the coming days – predict at this early stage that Evan may linger for two or three days around the North Island.
Mr Duncan says a more concrete prediction on Evan’s future path should evolve over the next two days as the storm starts to clear Fiji and back out into the open waters.
“People shouldn’t panic as we’re not going to see a Category 4 cyclone hitting New Zealand, but as with any tropical low we should monitor it closely, especially with so many people about to hit the roads, parks, beaches and outdoors”.
on 16/12/2012 6:40am
I notice stuff.co.nz have a headline “Cyclone Evan to hit Auckland” – people are already posting it all over Facebook and getting the wrong idea. Good on them for being misleading and trying to attract attention to themselves. I’m suprised they didn’t make the connection to the “end of the world” also lol