UPDATED 10pm NZT — Severe Category 5 Tropical Cyclone Winston has made landfall in northern Fiji according to WeatherWatch.co.nz and backed up by Fijian rain radar images which clearly show the eye making a direct hit around 7pm local time (8pm NZT). For 60 to 90 minutes the centre of the eye directly crossed the north of the island.
WeatherWatch.co.nz says the entire northern half of Viti Levu is exposed to damagaing hurricane force winds and 250 to 500mm of rain overnight.
The storm veered further south than expected in the two hours before sunset, bringing it further in to Fiji’s main island.
However in the past 30 minutes the Severe Cyclone Winston has stopped tracking south west and is returning to westerly tracking – taking the eye of the storm back out over warmer waters, which fuel tropical storms.
Sources now tell WeatherWatch.co.nz hotels in Nadi are ‘immediately evacuating’ people/guests into safe rooms as weather conditions rapidly go downhill, due to the earlier SW change. WeatherWatch.co.nz will continue updating overnight as the cyclone hugs the north to north western coastline – and moves closer to Nadi.
The Fiji Met Service says the storm remains at 917hPa with winds sustained at 230km/h gusting 325km/h. Global models out of the Joint Typhoon Warning Center (US Govt) says winds are even higher, but say it should now start weakening.
Waves around the eyewall are 12 metres high at sea, and may be higher as they move in. Coastal flooding is expected.
Very destructive winds will now be moving in across the upper half of the main island. “The centre of the storm is now tracking directly along the northern coastline – it will start to track south west overnight at some point, if it does that earlier than expected that will be a concern for Nadi – later than expected and the centre of Winston will stay further out to sea” says head weather analyst Philip Duncan.
“The centre of Cyclone Winston is likely to track very near Nadi around dawn, which is concerning to the many people there” says Mr Duncan.
This is an extremely serious situation – this is Fiji’s strongest storm in recorded history.
The storm also peaked in strength just as it approached Fiji from the east. It is expected to gradually start to weaken to a Category 4 cyclone overnight and into Sunday, as it moves over Fiji. “We believe it may weaken faster due to it’s last minute track further south over land, but flooding, slips, destructive winds and significant storm surges are all likely overnight tonight, especially in the northern half of Viti Levu” says Mr Duncan.
No official word has yet come out of Fijian forecasters regarding landfall. Sometimes a delay of an hour or two is normal in this part of the world. The UK Met Office has now confirmed the earlier landfall.
It is still too early to know how and if Winston will affect New Zealand – we are very closely monitoring and will have more information on Winston’s future once it’s left Fiji, either late Sunday or early Monday.
8pm NZT RAIN RADAR
8pm NZT (7pm Fiji time) – The eyewall of Winston making landfall tonight in Fiji / WeatherWatch. IMAGE via FIJI MET
9:10pm NZT (8:10pm Fijij time) – The eye of Cyclone Winston returns to sea
Latest modelling still shows a more northward track – the cyclone is now tracking SW away from the forecast line, directly into Fiji’s main island. It’s not uncommon for major tropical storms to behave this way, in fact most do. With something so big, spinning so fast, it’s not surprising it ‘wobbles’ off track. This is not a positive development. /Map via Wunderground.
We’ll have regular updates this evening at WeatherWatch.co.nz.
on 20/02/2016 6:55pm
Not to detract from what they have experienced in Fiji (my son and his family are in Suva), but the various claims of ‘the strongest cylone recorded anywhere (Brisbane TV), in the hemisphere, etc., are a bit hyperbolic? I remember TC Zoe, another very strong cyclone that whacked Tikopia and left it looking as if the Battle of the Somme had been fought there. The Wiki stats for this cyclone indicate that it was stronger than ‘Winston’. Lower barometric pressure and higher sustained wind speeds, and higher gusts.
However, whatever the comparitive strength of Winston, all those that have experienced it will be mightily relieved that is over and they can get back to their everyday lives, albeit severely disrupted for weeks and months ahead as damage is repaired and crops are recovered.
PS love your site