Pacific Hurricane Season 2016

Another Rocky Time for Taiwan and the Philippines

Updated September 12, 2016 @ 9:58 pm EST 

In early July of this year Super Typhoon Nepartak slammed into south Taiwan with winds reaching 160 mph (category 5 on the Saffir-Simpson Scale). Flooding rains, strong storm surge, and intense winds caused extensive damage across the region killing 86 people, with 19 still unaccounted for (more info on Nepartak here). Now, southern Taiwan and the northern Philippines are being threatened by another Super Typhoon that is closing in fast from the east: Super Typhoon Meranti.

image image

Currently Meranti is the strongest storm that is currently “alive” on Earth with winds of 180 mph and moving WNW at around 17 mph, inching closer and closer toward the island of Taiwan. Let’s start with some good news though. This storm is weakening slightly and this is all thanks to some dry air that is being sucked in on the north side of the system. The typical shape of a hurricane is relatively round, or oval. The major thunderstorms are usually held close to the center (around the eye). However, take a look at the satellite imagery above and you will see that the north side of the storm is starting to look unhealthy. Thunderstorms have broken away from the main cold core system in the center and started to spread outward, looking more lack patchy cells. This is a sign of dry air being wrapped into the system which separates thunderstorm activity from the center. Thus this is good because the storm is beginning to weaken. The bad news: it may be too late.

Meranti is less than 24 hours away from a potential landfall. Super Typhoon Meranti may not make a direct landfall in the Philippines or Taiwan but it will bring heavy rains and high storm surge to both the nations.


Track data has been shifted over the past few days but now we have a better idea on where Meranti will be going. Currently, the mainland of Taiwan and the Philippines may be spared and Meranti may squeeze in between the two mainlands and enter into the South China Sea before continuing into mainland China. Although the mainland of Taiwan and the Philippine mainland of Luzon may be spared of a direct impact the Philippine province of Batanes may be directly hit. This province is consisted of tiny islands to the north of the mainland which lies right in between the two nations, the exact area Super Typhoon Meranti is heading. Although the population is small across this province, these islands are mountanous, which is a concern when it comes to the heavy rains. Residents are advised to seek high shelter before Meranti arrives. Low valleys and areas close to the shore will be high at risk for flooding. Higher elevations will experience dangerous high winds. By seeking shelter in higher altitudes the best place to be would be on the SSW side of mountains. This will block the high winds that will be coming from the NW of the typhoon (especially if Meranti goes slightly north of the islands).


Super Typhoon Meranti is expected to keep its Category 5 strength (keep in mind, I am using the Saffir-Simpson Scale to give everyone in North America and idea of the strength of this system. The west Pacific does not use the Saffir-Simpson Scale) as it passes through the Philippine Sea and into the South China Sea. It will likely weaken to a Category 4 much faster than indicated above just because of the dry air the is quickly working its way into the storm.

Just from the satellite images above I can forecast that if Taiwan avoids a direct impact from Meranti, the majority of the rain will be towards the south and directed to the Philippines. Thanks to the dry air it is pushing down on the northern part of the system and shearing the north side apart. Taiwan will be hit by the broken up cells to the north, but since they are detached from the main part of the cold core, winds will not be a factor with these broken storms. Rain will still be the main concern.

Storm surge will be more of a problem for Tawain compared to the Philippines. The strongest storm surge is usually found around the NNW of a system. It is possible that storm surge values could reach 18 feet if the storm makes a direct landfall (and if the strength continues to maintain Cat. 5 status).

Taiwan and the Philippines are expected to experience the full brunt of Meranti tomorrow afternoon and into the overnight hours (September 13,2016 local time). After passing these nations Meranti is expected to head into southwestern mainland China where the threat will be flooding, especially in the mountain areas located around the area within the cone of uncertainty. Here is where the forecast could change. If Meranti makes a direct landfall in southern Taiwan the chances of the storm being weak before hitting China is highly probable. Yet, if Meranti avoids a landfall it will likely maintain major status (Category 3 or higher) and be a dangerous and powerful system for China (which models are currently forecasting).


Once again, rain is expected to be the main threat with this system for Taiwan, the Philippines, and China. The model above is showing most of the rain to be impacting Taiwan but I am calling for the rain to shift more south due to the dry air currently being wrapped into the system.  Southern Taiwan and the Northern Philippines should expect rainfall amounts reaching 18-20″. The province of Batanes will likely experience the strong super typhoon winds (gusting to 180mph at times) as well as heavy rains which will be surrounding the eye wall. China is currently expecting rain amounts of 12 -18 inches, but once again this depends on the “health” of Super Typhoon Meranti after she enters into the South China Sea.

Main Threats: 

  • Devestating Flooding
  • High Storm Surge (especially in Taiwan and the province of Batanes)
  • High Winds at Higher Altitudes in Batanes

I also have one more little storm to discuss spinning right behind Super Typhoon Meranti:


From the satellite image above see how there is a system to the southeast of Meranti? This is Tropical Storm Malakas. Now for a tropical storm, it is impressive. Compared to Meranti we are seeing higher cloud tops close to the center of this system (purple and white in color). This indicated very active thunderstorm activity and thus a potential for intensification.


Taiwan and the Philippines do not need to worry about this system though. Instead it is Japan that will need to keep an eye on it in the coming days as it travels on a more northerly path compared to its more formidable friend Meranti.


Intensification is expected over the next couple of days and could potentially evolve into a major hurricane (Category 3 on the Saffir-Simpson Scale) as this storm approaches Okinawa and southern Japan. South Korea may also be impacted by this system by the end of next weekend. The typhoon agency is keeping a close eye on this system and will update the track and intensity over the next few days.

The main threat for the next 24 to 48 hours will be Super Typhoon Meranti as it churns closer to Tawain, the Philippines, and soon after China. These nations are used to these powerful systems that pass by year after year and preparations have already set in motion to prepare for the approach of this Super Typhoon.

Hawai’i Prepares for Not One… But Two Tropical Systems!

Updated August 31, 2016 @ 10:25pm EST 

Aloha to the tiny chain of Hawaiian Islands sitting in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. The Aloha State is no stranger to hurricanes and tropical disturbances coming usually from the east, but this may be a little too strange: Hawai’i is preparing for not one, but two strong tropical systems!


Just to the right of the Big Island of Hawai’i is Tropical Storm Madeline, which is currently loosing strength fast. However, just behind Madeline we have a monster Category 4 hurricane named Lester. Hawai’i, in general, has had a very rough 2016 Pacific Hurricane Season thus far. If you are to refer to my previous blogs on Hawaiian Hurricanes below I discuss how rare it is for Hawai’i to get a direct impact from a tropical system. But to quickly recap, Hawaii is so tiny in the vast Pacific Ocean. Usually when a tropical disturbance forms it takes place off the western coast of Mexico and feeds off the warm waters as it travels westward, or northwestward. Typically these systems die long before they reach the Hawaiian Islands usually because of cool sea surface temperatures or intense wind sheer. In addition, just comparing the tiny size of the islands with the whole Pacific Ocean and you will see how hard it can be for a Hurricane to hit any of the islands directly. Below is an image which shows the number of tropical systems that have passed close to the islands collected since 1950. Only two hurricanes have made a direct landfall since this time (CNN Weather, 2016).


Although a direct impact (eye of the storm moving directly over land) is not expected from Madeline or Lester at the moment, the impacts will be felt, especially on the Big Island of Hawai’i where David Ige, the governor of Hawai;I has issued a State of Emergency and Oder the closure of schools, public offices, state parks, and encouraging businesses on the Big Island to shut down.

Madeline is the first storm the Big Island will have to deal with. image

This disorganized storm is expected to stay slightly south of the Big Island, but look at the wide range of rain showers approaching the island. This is the main threat. The Big Island is famous for it’s volcanic mountains and high peaks as well as beautiful valleys. This will be a big problem for many islanders. This intense rain will easily flood many parts of the island leaving the soil so saturated that once Lester arrives the flooding could be even more severe. 5-10 inches of rain is expected for the Big Island with some areas experiencing high values closer to 15 inches. The island of Maui could expect to see rain values of 4-5 inches with Madeline passing through. 70 mph winds are expected with Tropical Storm Madeline for the Big Island and stronger winds will be felt in mountainous areas, possibly closer to 80-85 mph. The Big Island and the island of Maui remain under a Tropical Storm Warning.


Conditions will start to improve tomorrow morning (Thursday, September 1, 2016) as Madeline moves to the south of Hawai’i and continues to weaken.

Now let us talk about the “Big Bad Wolf” named Lester. Lester is a monster of a storm, both in size and in strength. Currently Lester is a major Hurricane labeled as a category 4 system with winds reaching 135 mph and gusts blowing up to 160 mph.


Lester is pretty much feeding off of the energy of Madeline which is traveling a bit further west. The weakening of Madeline can be blamed in part to Lester. When two tropical systems are close by they usually battle each other out. If they are very close (not these systems) they can even undergo what is known as a Fujiwhara effect. Where the two systems orbit each other and usually one absorbs or destroys the other one (usually the weaker one) in the process. However, in this case Lester is pretty much just sucking up the energy left behind by Madeline.

Although still a few days away from the islands of Hawai’i, Lester is a well formed storm with a distinct eye. This structure will help this storm survive for the next 24 to 48 hours especially since it is exiting an area of favorable wind shear and entering into a more harsh environment with powerful upper level winds that will help tear the storm apart.


Wind shear value map for the Pacific Ocean, Tropical Storm Madeline and Hurricane Lester shown near the Hawaiian Islands. Green is favorable wind shear conditions, red in unfavorable. 

In addition sea surface temperatures around the Hawaiian Islands are very favorable for tropical cyclones currently which is helping Lester stay together:


Lester will in the next few hours take more of a west – northwest turn and go north of the Hawaiian islands entering less favorable sea surface temperature areas but for the moment we can expect this storm to maintain hurricane strength while weakening steadily.


For the moment Lester is still a few days away and is not expected to impact the Hawaiian Islands until this weekend. Wind shear is expected to increase around Lester by the weekend and help breakdown the storm even further. Hawai’i is not expected to receive a direct impact from this system, but like Madeline, the islands will get some impacts mostly in the form of rain and large swells (good news for all of the surfers).

Hawaii will once again be spared from a direct impact, but like all storms that pass close to them they will feel some impacts. The Big Island is the main problem with both Madelina and Lester and this comes in the form of rain. Flooding will be the main concern with both of these systems. Madeline at the moment will be the storm that produces and delivers more rain, but even with Lester passing to the north and possibly delivering smaller amounts of rain (depending on how the shape and size changes over the next 24-48 hours), the already saturated ground from Madeline will cause more problems to residents. Landslides will be a big problem in the mountainous areas due to the heavy amounts of rain and saturation. Be cautious in these areas and avoid valleys and below sea level areas.

What is so interesting about this event is that Hawai’i is being threatened by two tropical systems in such a short amount of time:


From the figure above which shows the tropical storm force wind speed probabilities you can see that once Madeline and Lester reach the tropical islands they split off. Madeline going south and Lester to the North. It is almost as if they are pinching the Big Island. If you are a hurricane geek like me, you would find this interesting probably.

The Big Island is currently dealing with Madeline and the rain is coming down hard. Don’t get too comfortable Hawai’i. Lester is on the way with more rain and wind. It may not be paradise this week in Hawai’i, but the surfers would probably debate with me on that topic.

Aloha Darby 

Updated July 23, 2016 at 11:10 am EST 

To begin has anyone noticed how active the East Pacific basin is so far this year? Yesterday we had four tropical cyclones spinning in this basin with every other ocean basin on Earth being dead quiet:


El Niño is still active in ZPacific but not for much longer. Ocean temperatures are lowering (as seen from the orange colored wave formation off the west coast of South America) but because this past El Niño was so strong the ocean temperatures are not lowering fast enough and the Pacific is still a prime spot for hurricane development. It won’t be until fall or even winter when we see the El Niño completely dissipate and probably a La Niña will take its place (forecasts from the Climate Prediction Center is calling for a 55-60% chance for a La Niña to form between August and October, 2016.)

Since yesterday (July 22) we have lost one of the 4 storms, Estelle; but we still have three tropical storms holding together as they progress westward. The main threat comes from Tropical Storm Darby who is targeting the state of Hawai’i.



Tiny little thing right? Almost the size of the Big Island of Hawai’i. Darby is not an impressive storm (sorry Darby). I say this because of it’s size, it’s strength, and it’s moisture content. However, regardless of what the storm is Hawai’i has already taken some measures to keep citizens and tourists safe for today and tomorrow as Darby moves through the island chain. Parks have been closed, events postponed and canceled, and resort beaches closed until the storm moves away. Flights in and out of Hawai’i will likely be affected.

Rainfall is expected to be around 2-4 inches with some areas seeing possibly 8-10 inches. The Big Island will take the brunt of this storm. The good news is that most of Hawai’i has been seeing drought conditions for some time now, and Darby’s rain could help this problem.

Now let’s discuss for a moment just how common hurricanes are to the Hawaiian Islands. Many would think that hurricanes hit the islands constantly when in fact it is very rare for the islands to receive a direct impact. This is because the islands of Hawai’i are so tiny compared to the whole Pacific Ocean, as well as so remote (pretty much half way between Asia and North America). It takes a lot of energy for a hurricane to reach this destination and manage to hold together. Even more rare is for a hurricane to directly hit the islands in this vast ocean basin.

The last time the islands experienced a tropical cyclone was in August of 2014 when Iselle came ashore on the southeast area of the Big Island as a tropical storm. Heavy rains caused flooding and winds caused extensive tree damage, one person was killed. However, compare this storm (picture shown below) to Darby. Iselle was much larger and more well defined – more rain.

image – Iselle, August 7, 2014

Darby will be joining Iselle by being one of the rare storms to directly impact the Hawaiian Islands. Currently Tropical Storm warnings are up for the Big Island, tropical storm watches spread westward into the other islands including Maui and Oahu.


A direct impact to the Big Island is expected late tonight July 23, Hawaiian Local Time. Conditions have been and will continue to deteriorate today and overnight as Darby pushes in with winds expected to be around 50-60 mph (moderate Tropical Storm). Once more, the Big Island will receive the majority of the rain and wind. Darby will move away from the Big Island and continue moving WNW overnight and move close (possibly even another direct impact) to the other Hawaiian Islands. Darby will weaken slightly from it’s journey over the Big Island (Kilauea Volcano will even help to weaken the system being that it is considered a tall mountain structure which helps shear storms apart). Darby will exit the Big Island as a weak Tropical Storm and keep this strength as it moves back out to sea.

My words right now will probably fall on deaf ears considering that Hawai’i is the surfing capital of the world: avoid the ocean. I know no one is going to listen but at least I can warn you.

A high surf advisory is in effect for east facing shores:

Surf along north facing shores will be 2 to 4 feet through Saturday.

Surf along west facing shores will be 2 to 4 feet through Saturday.

Surf along east facing shores will be 8 to 12 feet through Saturday with occasional higher sets.

Surf along south facing shores will be 2 to 4 feet through Saturday.

Of course surfers are going crazy and hitting the beach to catch some of these monster waves. However, I can at least advise that people who are not strong swimmers, please avoid the ocean until Darby has passed and the swells have died down. Even strong swimmers, be advised that you are risking your lives if you enter into these monster swells. I would advise not to go… But there is no way that the surfing community in Hawaii will listen to me.

Darby is hours away from landfall if you haven’t already this is your final few hours to prepare. Have fresh water on hand and be prepared for flooding, especially on the Big Island of Hawai’i. Aloha my dear friends and stay safe!

Super Typhoon Nepartak Closes in. Take Cover Taiwan. 

Updated July 7, 2016 at 11:36 am EST

Super Typhoon Nepartak is just hours away from making landfall along the east coast of Taiwan. Nepartak weakened slightly overnight but still maintained Super Typhoon strength with winds going from 175 mph on July 6 (first radar image below) to 165 mph today, July 7 (second image below).


The radar images above give meteorologists some information on the “health” of the storm. At its peak strength Nepartak was still drawing in moisture from the warm oceans surrounding the storm and this is shown in the thunderstorm activity surrounding the large low pressure (thunderstorms to the NNE side of the storm circulating in towards the system). In addition the eye of Nepartak was very defined and solid. You can clearly see the ocean within the eye  indicating very little winds and almost no moisture in the eye of the system. This has changed a bit today and it has to do with Nepartak starting to impact land. Thunderstorm activity has started to fall apart along the very outer edges of the system meaning that the energy from the ocean is starting to be cut off. Additionally, look at the eye. Even though it is still very pronounced, moisture is starting to enter into the center of circulation (you cannot see the ocean through the eye anymore). This is a clear sign of weakening going on within the system and the energy being cut off from Nepartak. This is good. However, this weakening process takes a long time (order of a few days). Taiwan has no time and is expected to receive a Super Typhoon with winds reaching close to 160 mph.

Even though Nepartak is still offshore this system is fairly large and Taiwan is already feeling the effects of the system. image

Winds are already starting to pick up, however the story will not be about the winds, but rather the rain. Nepartak is impacting the island of Taiwan on the east side which means that the damaging winds will not be too much of a threat. In the northern hemisphere the strongest winds are usually found to the east of the eye (right side of the typhoon). By the time this section impacts Taiwan the storm will be weakening significantly due to the energy of the ocean being completely cut off as Nepartak passes over the mountainous terrain of Tawain. However, residents will need to worry about the rain.


Nepartak is a fairly large system, and with large systems we can expect the storm to be more of a “wet” storm. The bigger the system the more moisture the system holds. Tawain is expected to receive rains in excess of 18 inches, especially along the southeast side of the storm. China is also ready to greet Nepartak and is expecting lesser values (around 8 inches) along the coast. However, further inland the rain will be more significant. Valleys hidden amongst the very mountainous terrain in China will be the most at threat with Nepartak. Rain amounts can easily exceed 20 inches as Nepartak moves inland and continues to weaken and possibly stall over the mountainous regions. China may have to worry more about Nepartak compared to Taiwan in this respect. Taiwan experiences several typhoon threats each year and this has become “normal” to the residents of Taiwan. Emergency and evacuation procedures are one of the best in the world. China on the other hand, although also impacted frequently by typhoons, usually suffers in the mountainous areas where small villages are located. Many of these villages are accessed only by a few small roads. If these roads are washed out, emergency aid could take days to get into the effected areas.


In the meantime, the track of Nepartak has changed very little. In the next few hours Nepartak will be crossing the southern part of Taiwan and exiting out into the China Sea. However, weakening will continue over the next couple of days. This stretch of water between Taiwan and China is not enough to help Nepartak recover. Instead Nepartak will weaken considerably and impact China with winds around 45 mph. However, once more, the rain will be the main concern for both Taiwan and China.

Watch out Taiwan and China, Nepartak is on your doorstep!

After a Very Quiet Start we have our First Typhoon

Updated July 5, 2016 at 2:28 pm EST

Typhoon Nepartak makes history this weeks in the western Pacific. Many Pacific residents have been in shock this year as weeks have gone by without any sign of a developing typhoon, especially after the historical active year of 2015. The western Pacific basin entered its longest stretch of time without a named tropical cyclone – a streak that ended on Sunday July 3, 2016. The new record of 199 days ended with the development of  Nepartak. The lack of tropical systems occurred from Dec. 17, 2015 to July 2, 2016. This new record of 199 days shattered the old record by just one day. The previous record was 198 days with a “typhoon drought” and occurred from Dec. 15, 1972 to June 30, 1973 and also from Dec. 22, 1997 to July 7, 1998.

I should mention at this point that all of these world record years occurred when a strong El Niño year was weakening and a La Niña year was beginning to occur.

So what does this really mean for the Pacific basin? To start, many should be celebrating. Many countries are still recovering from the active 2015 typhoon season and could use a quiet year. This is what the typhoon agency expects for the 2016 hurricane season: image

Typhoon experts across the Pacific are preparing for a significantly weak season across the Pacific and possibly even a record breaking season with very little storm activity. Good news for residents living along the Pacific shore lines, bad for hurricane researchers studying the Pacific 😉

So why so quiet this year? It all relates back to the La Niña that is rapidly forming in the Pacific.

image image

Looking at the images above, if you observe the colors (sea surface temperatures) off the west coast of South America you will see a “ripple” pattern of orange (which the lower figure shows that this area is cool). This is the La Niña that is currently forming. This small ripple has a large impact not only in the Pacific, but globally.

Ocean waters are becoming cooler across the Pacific basin and wind shear is rising, prohibiting any storms from evolving into typhoons. Although a La Niña warning has not been issued yet climate experts are expecting one in the fall time, and it could be a big one. This will limit typhoon formation in the Pacific, but the Atlantic Ocean will see an increase in storms. The Atlantic has already broken a record so far this year with 4 tropical storms forming very early in the season. So residents living along the Pacific Ocean may be able to breathe a sigh of release, but residents along the Atlantic shorelines may have some tropical problems this hurricane season.

So let’s discuss this new typhoon spinning in the west Pacific: Nepartak.


Currently (July 5) Typhoon Nepartak is located about 945 miles east-southeast of Taipei, Taiwan and is moving fairly fast to the west-northwestw at 21 mph. Maximum sustained winds are 140 mph with gusts to 165 mph making this storm a solid category 4 on the Saffir-Simpson Scale (labeled as a “Violent Typhoon” on the Tropical Cyclone Intensity Scale in the west Pacific).
Nepartak will likely continue to intensify over the next few days as it moves northwestward across the Philippine Sea and enter into an area of warmer sea surface temperatures and minimal wind shear:


(Courtesy of AccuWeather)

By Thursday afternoon, Nepartak will be near the southwestern Ryukyu Islands by Thursday afternoon and evening and will possibly impact northern Taiwan. Taiwan is already informing its residents of the threats withNepartak. The main concern will be flooding due to intense rains, especially in mountainous regions. Damaging winds will also be accompanied with this storm with gusts possibly exceeding 165 mph. After impacting Taiwan Nepartak will begin to take a northern turn and head towards the east coast of China. China is expecting to feel the impacts Friday and Saturday.


Taiwan is no stranger to Typhoons. In fact it is considered an abnormal year if a typhoon does not make a direct hit. Taiwan has recently started to explore Typhoons using military-grade aircrafts (similar to the WC-130J’s, used by the 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron, also known as the Hurricane Hunters, in the United States) to gain more information on typhoons and if they will strengthen by observing changes in barometric pressure and wind speeds. Although this is not normal procedure for Typhoon prone areas in the Pacific, starting in 2017 Japanese researchers plan to start using aircrafts to observe typhoons over the western Pacific Ocean. I for one will look forward to this as it will deliver more information on typhoons in the western Pacific.

In the meantime our eyes are glued to this first, and potentially deadly typhoon heading towards Taiwan and China. Nepartak will likely continue to strengthen and cause massive flooding across the island of Taipei. Residents are already preparing for the storm and warnings have been issued. More details will come as Nepartak approaches.

Hopefully you are not vacationing in Fiji

Updated February 19, 2016 at 11:33pm EST

I can only hope that many snow birds did not decide to escape the cold north and travel to a tropical paradise… AKA Fiji. Fiji is currently getting slammed by a major category 5 typhoon: Winston. Cyclone Winston is currently moving directly over Fiji as of 10:30 pm EST.

winston 4 winston 2

(Photos courtesy of WeatherUnderground)

For the past few days Winston has been making a “loopy” path in the Pacific making forecasting very difficult. Winston already passed over Tonga’s Vava’u… twice! First as Category 2 and then again as a Category 4 storm. This area of the world is used to tropical cyclone activity but not on this scale. Winston is now a dangerous Category 5 storm, making it the strongest storm on record to make landfall in Fiji.

Winston is expected to impact the main island of Fiji directly (Viti Levu). This island holds the majority of the population and doesn’t typically receive cyclones of this intensity.

winston 5

(Photo Courtesy of Met Office Storms)

Looking at the system above it is very healthy. Perfect solid eye and strongest winds are in a tight formation around the eye, indicating this system is not weakening at all so far. The worst part for Fiji is its location in proximity to Winston. Now keep in mind that we are in the southern hemisphere right now. Therefore Winston is turning clockwise compared to counter clockwise in the northern hemisphere. Fiji is in the going to experience the worst part of the storm after the eye has passed. In the bottom right hand corner is where the southern hemisphere cyclones hold their heavy storm surge. In the northern hemisphere we are warned that the top left quadrant is the worst when it comes to storm surge, but in the south the storm surge is located in the bottom right. Therefore, Fiji will have to survive the first part of the storm and then experience the deadly storm surge during the second round.

Now here is the scary part of this storm. In this area of the world there is a different way to measure the strength of a cyclone. In the United States and Taiwan for example we have the “Hurricane Hunters” which are deployed into a hurricane to measure the wind speeds and pressure within a system and then we categorize the storm according to the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale. However, over in Fiji and the islands scattered around this area of the world there is no one brave enough to fly through a cyclone! (Fair enough). More like, this area is not very worried when it comes to cyclones and the technology is not available in this area (no hurricane hunter station set up for example.

Instead this area uses (big sigh) the Dvorak Technique to determine the strength of a system. So please click on this link to read more on this technique. However, as a brief overview: the Dvorak technique relies on satellite images – visible and infrared. This technique is obviously not perfect. When we are looking at a satellite image we are looking at the formation of the storm in the high atmosphere (anywhere from 30-40 thousand feet above sea level). Therefore, the Dvorak technique is only looking at the shape and “possible” wind speeds at a high altitude and not determine the true wind speeds on the ground which could be more/less. Currently, meteorologists have determined that Winston is a T8 on the Dvorak Scale. Making it the most intense cyclone (according to this scale).


Above is a chart in the Dvorak Scale which meteorologists use to determine the possible strength of storms according to the shape of the storm. This is used in remote areas (Fiji) or in areas where Hurricane Hunter aircrafts can’t reach (this is used in the Atlantic Basin when the cyclones are out towards Africa for example). There are a lot of errors with this scale obviously and yet we continue to use it.

As a T8 system Winston is expected to have winds in excess of 150 mph, however, so far the island of Vanua Balavu (which was directly impacted only recorded a wind speed of 106 mph. This could be updated later, but the difference between 150 and 106 is pretty great.

Below is a letter distributed to Fijians by the Prime Minister

My fellow Fijians,

Tropical Cyclone Winston has begun its assault on Fiji. It is being described as one of the most powerful in recorded history – a Category 5 cyclone with winds approaching 300 kilometres an hour. As a nation, we are facing an ordeal of the most grievous kind. We must stick together as a people and look after each other. Be alert and be prepared.

I urge you all, if you haven’t already done so, to finalise your own preparations to survive this terrible event. We cannot afford to be complacent. And I am especially concerned that some people in urban areas of the country in particular do not appear to have heeded the warnings about the seriousness of the threat we all face.

I want to assure the nation that the Government is thoroughly prepared to deal with this crisis. Our evacuation centres are fully operational. And if you have any doubts about the ability of your own home to withstand the onslaught, I urge you to seek shelter where you are most likely to be safe and our officials can assist you.

I ask parents to be especially careful of the young and the elderly. Do not allow anyone to go outside during the storm itself. The threat of being hit by flying debris is extremely high.

By now, you should have done all you can to secure your property. Make sure you have adequate food and water, flashlights, candles and lanterns in case the power supply is disrupted and a battery operated radio to keep abreast of news of Cyclone Winston’s progress.

Let us all pray for our nation, ourselves and each other and ask God’s blessing on our beloved Fiji.

Hon. JV Bainimarama
Prime Minister

Winston will obviously be the storm of the century for Fiji. It is very difficult to prepare for a storm of this magnitude when one has never happened before. Fiji residents have been preparing for the past couple of days and boarded up houses and businesses as well as stocking up on food and water for what is likely to be a long and hard recovery. All flights are grounded today and tomorrow for the islands. All businesses and schools are shut down and people are advised to go to designated shelters that are built to withstand harsh winds.

Prayers to Fiji and more updates will be available as the storm passes and communication to the islands comes back.


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