Category 5 Severe Tropical Cyclone "Harold" closing in on Vanuatu - Red Alert in effect for Sanma, Penama and Malampa provinces

Category 5 Severe Tropical Cyclone

Category 5 Severe Tropical Cyclone "Harold" is closing in on Vanuatu. A Red Alert is in effect for Sanma, Penama and Malampa provinces, and Yellow Alert for Torba and Shefa. Damaging gale force winds, destructive storm force winds and hurricane-force winds with heavy rainfalls and flash flooding over low lying areas and areas close to river banks including coastal flooding are expected in provinces under Red Alert tonight (LT) and continuing tomorrow. Very rough to phenomenal seas with heavy to phenomenal swells are expected over northern and central open and coastal waters tonight and tomorrow as the system continues to move closer to the Islands of Vanuatu.

On April 3, the Vanuatu National Disaster Management Office (VNDMO) advised all residents under the red alert to remain indoors. COVID-19 preparedness activities were suspended to facilitate preparations for Harold; travel and social distancing restrictions associated with the COVID-19 pandemic were lifted.

The cyclone's slow movement west of Vanuatu has already drew in copious moisture, resulting in heavy rainfall and flash flooding which forced people to evacuate their homes for higher ground in Espiritu Santo and damaged roads in Penama. On the island of Malakula, rivers overflowed their banks and inundated gardens.

Tropical Cyclone "Harold" at 12:00 UTC on April 5, 2020. Credit: JTWC/SATOPS

At 15:00 UTC on April 5, 2010 (02:00 LT, April 6), Severe Tropical Cyclone "Harold" (914 hPa) has strengthened into a Category 5 and was located about 140 km (87miles) W of Luganville and 185 km (115 miles) WNW of Malekula, Vanuatu, according to the Tropical Cyclone Warning Number 20 issued by Vanuatu Meteorology and Geo-Hazards Department (VMGD) at 03:09 VUT on April 6 (16:00 UTC, April 5).

The cyclone has been moving slowly in a NNE direction at 7 km/h (4 mph) over the past 3 hours.

Maximum sustained winds close to the center are estimated at 215 km/h (133 mph). 

Damaging gale force winds of 90 km/h (55 mph), gusting to 110 km/h (70 mph) affecting Sanma, Penama and Malampa Provinces tonight and continuing tomorrow and extending to Shefa province in the next 6 to 12 hours (from 02:00 LT, April 6).

Destructive storm force winds of 120 km/h (75 km/h) with gusts up to 150 km/h (93 mph) within 74 km (45 miles) from its center will be affecting Sanma province for the next 6 to 12 hours and later extending to Malampa and Penama provinces.

Hurricane force winds of 215 km/h (133 mph), gusting to 235 km/h (145 mph) within 37 km (23 mph) from its center are also expected to affect Sanma province and extending to Malampa and Penama provinces in the next 12 to 24 hours.

Tropical Cyclone "Harold" at 17:20 UTC on April 5, 2020. Credit: JMA/Himawari-8, RAMMB/CIRA

Tropical Cyclone "Harold" at 17:20 UTC on April 5, 2020 - CTP. Credit: JMA/Himawari-8, RAMMB/CIRA

Damaging gale force winds, destructive storm force winds and hurricane-force winds with heavy rainfalls and flash flooding over low lying areas and areas close to river banks including coastal flooding is expected over Sanma, Penama and Malampa Provinces tonight and continuing tomorrow. 

Very rough to phenomenal seas with heavy to phenomenal swells are expected over northern and central open and coastal waters tonight and tomorrow as the system continues to move closer to the Islands of Vanuatu.

High Seas wind warning and a Marine strong wind warning are current for all coastal and open waters of Vanuatu. People, including sea going vessels are strongly advised not to go out to sea within the affected area until the system has moved out of the area.

The Vanuatu National Disaster Management Office (NDMO) advises that Red Alert is in effect for Sanma, Penama and Malampa Provinces, and Yellow Alert for Torba and Shefa provinces. For actions on these alerts, call NDMO on 22699, 7738201 and 7720836.

People over Torba, Sanma, Penama, Malampa and Shefa provinces are advised to listen to Radio Vanuatu and all other Radio Outlets to get the latest update on this system.

Tropical Cyclone "Harold" at 22:35 UTC on April 4, 2020. Credit: Copernicus EU/Sentinel-2, Antonio Vecoli

Update

10:06 UTC, April 6

At 17:00 local time (VUT) or 06:00 UTC on April 6, Category 5 Tropical Cyclone "Harold" was located about 45 km (28 miles) S of Ambae and 40 km (25 miles) W of Pentecost, according to the VMGD.

Maximum sustained winds close to the center are estimated at 215 km/h (133 mph).

Damaging gale force winds of 90 km/h (56 mph), gusting to 110 km/h (68 mph) affecting Torba and parts of Shefa provinces and continuing within the next 6 to 12 hours.

Destructive storm force winds of 120 km/h (75 mph) with gusts up to 150 km/h (93 mph) currently affecting Sanma, Malampa and Penama provinces and continuing tonight.

Hurricane-force winds of 215 km/h (133 mph), gusting to 235 km/h (146 mph) currently affecting Penama, Malampa and Sanma provinces and continuing in the next 6 to 12 hours.

Tropical Cyclone "Harold" at 05:50 UTC on April 6, 2020 - CTP. Credit: JMA/Himawari-8, RAMMB/CIRA

Featured image: Tropical Cyclone "Harold" at 17:20 UTC on April 5, 2020 - CTP. Credit: JMA/Himawari-8, RAMMB/CIRA

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