By MetService meteorologist Emma Blades
All times are in New Zealand local time.
Tropical Cyclone Winston was upgraded to a category five cyclone last night. This morning the centre tracked near to the Fiji Island of Vanua Balavu, where average wind speeds of 185km/h were recorded. Wind speeds even closer to the centre of the cyclone are estimated to average 220km/h, with momentary gusts likely to reach 315km/h.
Infrared satellite image (indicating cold cloud top temperatures) showing the location of TC Winston at 10.10am Saturday 20th February 2016.
TC Winston is tracking west-northwest and we expect it to be located about 130km north-northwest of Suva at 8pm tonight. By 8am tomorrow morning TC Winston is forecast to be around 140km northwest of Suva.
Latest Warnings from the Fiji MetService
The Fiji MetService Website is currently very slow to load, probably due to the high numbers of people trying to get the latest information. Here is the latest information from their Special Weather Bulletin that was issued at 9.18am today.
A hurricane warning remains in force for Vanuabalavu, Yacata, Mago,Cicia, Tuvuca, Nayau, Koro, Gau, Vanuavatu, Taveuni, Qamea, Laucala,Ovalau, Wakaya and Vanua Levu. Expect very destructive hurricane force winds with average speed of 220km/h and momentary gust to 315km/h. Heavy rain and squally Thunderstorms. Damaging heavy swells. Flooding including with sea Flooding of low lying areas.
A storm warning remains in force for Lakeba, Oneata, Moce, Komo,Namuka, Ogea, Moala, Viti Levu,Yasawa and Mamanuca group. Expect destructive storm force winds with average speed of 110km/h and momentary gust to 155km/h. Heavy rain and squally thunderstorms. Damaging heavy swells. Flooding including sea flooding of low lying Areas.
A heavy rain warning remains in force for Fiji. Expect damaging gale force winds with average speed of 85km/h and Momentary gust to 120km/h. Periods of heavy rain and squally Thunderstorms. Damaging heavy swells. Flooding including sea Flooding of low lying areas.
Over the next couple of days, the winds close to the center of TC Winston are forecast to weaken a touch, but still remaining around 200km/h. TC Winston is expected to move west-southwest over Fiji, before tracking south.
Range of possible future tracks for Severe TC Winston over the next 5 days, based on GEFS data. Image from NOAA Earth System Research Laboratory.
Impact on NZ
There are currently no direct impacts expected for New Zealand in the next few days as TC Winston moves westward and then takes a more southerly track. Most global weather models expect the future track to move southwest and then northwest before weakening near the Coral Sea, but there are also some models who have the track moving further south. With tropical cyclones there is always some uncertainly associated with the tracks they will take, so we advise people in New Zealand and planning travel to the Pacific to keep up to date with the latest forecasts. MetService meteorologists are monitoring this tropical cyclone closely and provide tropical updates daily via the Tropical Cyclone Activity page on metservice.com where you can also see hourly satellite imagery, as well as updates on the MetService Blog, Twiter and Facebook.
The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) Tropical Cyclone Programme has been established to help emergency managers and the public prepare for tropical cyclones and minimise the loss of life and damage they can cause. Under this programme, MetService is designated as the Wellington Tropical Cyclone Warning Centre (TCWC) and, together with Regional Specialised Meteorological Centre (RSMC) Nadi , is responsible for official warnings and advisories for tropical cyclones in the South Pacific. Any severe weather effects for New Zealand caused by tropical cyclones will be included in Severe Weather Warnings, Watches and Outlooks, as well as marine warnings and forecasts. http://metservice.com/warnings/severe-weather-warnings. As always, you can keep up to date with the latest forecasts and warnings at metservice.com.