Category four cyclone in Vanuatu
Updated February 8, 2012 09:45:47
A severe tropical cyclone is generating winds of up to 165 kilometres an hour in Vanuatu.
At two am local time, Cyclone Jasmine, which has reached a category four was located about 260 kilometres west, south west of Port Vila and 320 kilometres west of Tanna.
Vanuatu's Meterology and Geo Hazards Department says in the next 12 to 24 hours destructive hurricane force winds gusting to 185 kilometres an hour is expected to affect Tafea Province.
The Shefa and Malampa provinces are also expected to receive damaging gale force winds.
Presenter:Geraldine Coutts Speaker:: Neville Koop from the Suva-based Nadraki weather office
KOOP: At 5 am this morning local time, it had moved a little closer to Vanuatu than the conditions you just mentioned. It was about 250 kilometres due west of Tanna Island. It remains a severe tropical cyclone, Category 4 and it's moving east southeast at about 30 kilometres an hour.
COUTTS: And where is it tracking, which way is it tracking?
KOOP: It's passing through the ocean waters between the southern islands of Vanuatu and the northern islands of New Caledonia. It will continue that east southeastward movement which will kind of parallel the islands, not quite hitting them on square. So it may not actually pass over the islands of Vanuatu, but on the track it's on it could potentially be even worse because it's going to stay just to the south of them for quite sometime, most of today by the looks.
COUTTS: Gathering strength.
KOOP: It is slowing down, it is going to slow down which is a concern also, but as it slows down it will just take longer to clear away, so the damaging winds and heavy rain will likely continue for longer than we'd previously considered.
COUTTS: Well, what kind of conditions can the communities of Vanuatu and New Caledonia expect from the Category 4 cyclone?
KOOP: Well at this stage, they're just on the periphery of the gales, so winds will be up to gale force by now, which is damaging, but more significantly heavy rain will be falling right across that region right now which brings the risk of flash flooding and river flooding as well for the larger islands. So the rainfall is already quite severe and the winds will increase today as the storm gets closer slowly through the course of the day. So it's at this stage gale force winds, but potentially up to the strong storm force winds 120 kilometre plus winds by later this afternoon.
COUTTS: Small craft warnings?
KOOP: Yes, there's warnings out for all sorts of maritime activity ranging from ships on the high seas, down to small craft, so I would imagine that anybody with a small boat will be well and truly tucked up by now they shouldn't be out there that's for sure.
COUTTS: Now it's gale force four Category 4 Jasmine. As it slows, are you expecting that to increase?
KOOP: No, Category 4 is probably going to be the peak intensity and the strongest winds remain very close to the core within about 60 or 70 kilometres of the centre. So those really extreme winds at the moment it's wind speeds near the centre are up well above 200 kilometres an hour in gusts.
No, they should stay away from populated areas I would think. At this stage, I wouldn't expect the eye will pass directly over any of the larger populated islands, but certainly winds will stay in the 120 to 150 kilometre an hour mark today as the cyclone continues its southeastern movement.
COUTTS: Well, cyclones as we know they're unpredictable to say the least, but if you are trying to predict this one, what would you say of its future, immediate future?
KOOP: Look, it's likely to remain at or close to its current intensity for the next 12 hours or so. It will move over cooler ocean waters, which is one of the first things that inhibits their intensity, so it will probably start to weaken later today as it moves over the cooler ocean water. There aren't any other phenomena in the region that might have any other impact on the system at this stage. It remains by far the dominant weather system in the southwest Pacific, so it's really determining the weather over a large area.
It will weaken a little, but other than that, I'm reasonably confident that its track will continue towards the southeast.
COUTTS: Now Cyclone Cyril was named yesterday. That's not causing concern?
KOOP: No, it passed south of Niue overnight or late yesterday and is now tracking out into the open ocean south of the Cook Islands and other than ships in the area, it shouldn't affect anybody from here onwards.
COUTTS: And is there anything else on your radar that you're looking at?
KOOP: Look, the only other weather feature we're watching is the South Pacific Convergence Zone, which is the broad monsoonal-type trough that sits over the South Pacific. It's going to drop down back over Fiji today. So here in Fiji we can expect rain to return. We've had a very wet time of it lately here what with floods recently and heavy rain last week, so people are a little weary of the rain, but we're going to get more of it and it's probably going to stay until the weekend and there's a small risk that if the rain stays for that period of time, we could see some more minor flooding, but at this stage it's probably not likely.