Tropical Cyclone Zena Passes South of Fiji; Causes Flooding Six Weeks After Cyclone Winston
6 April, 2016
Tropical Cyclone Zena passed southeast of Fiji, just days after torrential rain triggered major flooding, and just six weeks after parts of the archipelago were slammed by Tropical Cyclone Winston, their strongest tropical cyclone on record.
(FLASHBACK: Category 5 Tropical Cyclone Winston Hammers Fiji)
Zena peaked in intensity as a Category 2 cyclone Wednesday afternoon with maximum sustained winds estimated by the U.S. Joint Typhoon Warning Center of 105 mph.
Thanks to increasing westerly wind shear by Wednesday, Zena's central core of convection lost organization with an eye no longer discernible in infrared imagery and its core convection was becoming more disorganized. As a result, Zena began to weaken as it pulled away from Fiji.
(MORE: Fiji Composite Radar)
Fiji's National Disaster Management Office urged residents living in flood-prone areas to move to higher ground in advance of Zena.
Flooding Rainfall Earlier in the Week
An unnamed tropical disturbance dumped up to 12 inches of rain on the western and northern parts of Fiji's largest and most populous island, Viti Levu, Monday and Tuesday, sending feet of flood water into Nadi, Fiji's third largest city.
FBC News reported a 70-year old man was found dead in the swollen Sabeto River, and another 19-year-old woman was missing after being swept away.
Flood water up to shoulder deep prompted evacuations of residents from the Korociri settlement, according to the Fijian Government. Flooding also shut down the town of Rakakiri, in far northern Viti Levu, with reports of flooding in the town's market, according to stuff.co.nz. Almost 11.40 inches of rain had fallen in Rakakiri from Sunday through late Wednesday night.
Radio New Zealand reported at least 3,500 were evacuated into 79 emergency shelters in north and west Viti Levu. Schools were closed on Wednesday, Radio New Zealand reported.
Tuesday night, roads were still closed in Nadi, and other parts of Viti Levu. The heavy rain also forced the suspension of the aid distribution to those in western Viti Levu still recovering from Cyclone Winston, according to stuff.co.nz.
Since Sunday, Nadi had picked up 474.1 millimeters (about 18.67 inches) of rain, about 1.5 times the average rainfall for the entire month in Suva, the Fijian capital.
How Unusual Are Two Fiji Tropical Cyclones in the Same Year?
According to NOAA's historical hurricane tracks, adding in late February 2016's Winston, only 19 tropical cyclones of a strength equivalent to a Category 1 hurricane (at least 74 mph maximum sustained winds) have tracked with 150 miles of Nadi, Fiji, from 1970 through February 2016.
Interestingly, multiple Category 1+ tropical cyclones tracked near Nadi in 1997, 1992, 1985 and 1972.
Only Betty in 1975 and June in 1997 tracked near Nadi, Fiji in April or later. April typically falls at the back end of the southwest Pacific tropical cyclone season.
In El Niño years, South Pacific tropical cyclone activity tends to be greater toward the International Date Line, rather than in the Coral Sea near Australia.