Tropical Cyclone "Zena" moves away from Fiji, to pass over Tonga

Tropical Cyclone

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Fiji was placed under nation-wide curfew as Tropical Cyclone "Zena" moved over Vanuatu and started approaching the island on April 5. Zena passed just south of the main Fiji island of Viti Levu around 11:00 UTC on April 6 and warnings have been mostly lifted off by 19:30 UTC. The system is now rapidly weakening and will pass over Tonga early April 7 (UTC).

Tropical Cyclone "Zena" was still newly born and intensifying tropical cyclone when it impacted northern Vanuatu. The system& was buffeting islands with sustained winds estimated to be over 64.3 km/h (40 mph) when NASA's Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) core observatory flew overhead on April 5, 2016 at 10:23 UTC.

On April 5, GPM saw Zena was dropping rain at a rate of almost 154 mm (6 inches) per hour in intense downpours. Credit: NASA/JAXA/SSAI, Hal Pierce

A rainfall analysis derived from GPM's Microwave Imager (GMI) and Dual-Frequency Precipitation Radar (DPR) instruments showed that very powerful storms moving through Vanuatu were dropping rain at a rate of almost 154 mm (6 inches) per hour in intense downpours.

Tropical Cyclone "Zena" early April 6, 2016. Image credit: NASA Terra/MODIS

On April 6 at 09:00 UTC, Zena had maximum sustained winds near 148 km/h (92 mph) and was located about 352 km (218 miles) west of Suva, Fiji.

It started weakening before it passed just south of the main Fiji island of Viti Levu around 11:00 UTC but was still a dangerous system that threatened to further exacerbate widespread flooding that was affecting Fiji over the last couple of days. A total of 136 evacuation centres have been opened in response to flooding, with more than 6 471 people taking shelter there, according to UN OCHA. 2 people lost their lives.

The Ministry of Health has been reminding the public of the elevated health and hygiene risks associated with flooding, particularly given recent cases of Typhoid, Conjunctivitis and Zika in the wake of Tropical Cyclone "Winston". The Food Security Cluster reports that the heavy rain has badly affected the country’s vegetable growing areas and has already washed away replacement seeds and seedlings planted after Winston.

Image credit: JMA/Himawari-8

At 21:00 UTC on April 6, Zena was located approximately 403 km (250 miles) southeast of Suva, Fiji, and has tracked ESE at 57.4 km/h (35.6 mph) over the past 6 hours, according to JTWC. Animated infrared satellite imagery indicates Zena continues to rapidly weaken. Intensity was assessed at 101.8 km/h (63.2 mph) at the time.

Image credit: JMA/Himawari-8

Zena is tracking rapidly east-southeastward and is forecast to continue this track motion until it dissipates within the next 24 hours. While dissipating, Zena will simultaneously undergo transition to a subtropical low but will complete dissipation first.

It will approach Tonga early April 7 bringing strong winds and heavy rain. A storm warning is effect for 'Eua, Tongatapu and Ha'apai. Gale warning is in effect for Vava'u.

Heavy rain, flash flooding and heavy damaging swells warnings are in effect for Tongatapu, 'Eua, Ha'apai and Vava'u coastal waters.

Tropical Cyclone "Zena" forecast track by JTWC on April 6, 2016.

72-hr rainfall accumulation ending 15:00 UTC on April 6, 2016. Image credit: NASA/JAXA/Google GPM

Featured image: Tropical Cyclone "Zena" at 21:00 UTC on April 6, 2016. Image credit: JMA/Himawari-8

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