Editorial comment – Fair warning for us all

Homes destroyed by Severe Tropical Cyclone Winston in Fiji. Picture: FT FILE

We have been warned to expect four severe tropical cyclones with the intensity to ravage maritime islands within the next three to six months.

That’s the word from Fiji Meteorological Service principal climatologist Terry Atalifo.

He made the revelation during a news conference at the SPC Pasifika conference room in Nabua, Suva yesterday.

The Western Division, he said, would once again be the hot spot for tropical cyclones this season.

People in the division should expect above average cyclones while those living in the Eastern Division could expect below average cyclones.

We can expect heavy rain during this cyclone period, he warned.

“There is an increased risk of flooding in the whole Fiji Group because 90 per cent of the country will experience heavy rain except Rotuma.

“A La-Nina event is underway, there is an increased risk of flooding across the Fiji Group during the season.”

Temperatures would be above normal and we should be expecting hot weather as well.

Between 2016-2018, there were 11 tropical cyclones, out of which five were severe storms.

Our cyclone season is from November to April. Now that we are aware of the weather forecast, it falls on us to be prepared.

This is when we take heed of alerts, warnings and advisories issued by both the Fiji Meteorological Service and the National Disaster Management Office.

In the face of this revelation, no one would have thought about the impact a Category 5 system such as Winston could have on our nation for instance.

Severe Tropical Cyclone Winston went past us in a blaze of fury and power in February, 2016.

By the time it left Fiji, there was death and destruction along the path it cut through our islands.

Fijians had never experienced anything like Winston before.

The power Winston unleashed on the country was shocking. Picking up strength after Tonga, Winston developed into a massive Category 5 system that was frightening.

It was unpredictable. At first the projected path curved through the Lau Group and pointed to the southwest of Viti Levu. It was expected to pass pretty close to the Capital City.

But Winston picked up power, and fury, and moved straight to the West, cutting through Lau, Lomaiviti, and brushing over Ra before curving down south again.

You only have to look at pictures of Koro Island post-Winston to truly understand and truly appreciate its immense power.

The people of Koro were not prepared for a massive system like Winston.

Packed with average winds of up to 220km an hour and momentary gusts of up to 315km an hour close to its centre, Winston, a fully-fledged Cat 5 megastorm swept through Koro, destroying 315 homes.

Roofs were torn off by the ferocious winds.

Homes were blown away and concrete structures looked like they had been pounded by a tank.

It seemed like nothing could withstand the fury and the power of Winston. Death stared at the people of Koro.

The village of Sinuvaca for instance, looked like a battleground, flattened by the severe storm.

This is why we must remind ourselves today about the impact of such natural disasters.

We must be prepared. We have been warned.

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