Strengthening Tropical Cyclone Keni to renew flood threat across Fiji
On the heels of deadly Tropical Cyclone Josie, Fiji will face new dangers from strengthening Tropical Cyclone Keni.
The cyclone formed east of Vanuatu's northern Islands on Friday evening, local time, before strengthening and drifting eastward through Monday morning.
Keni is currently a Category 3 tropical cyclone (the equivalent of a Category 1 hurricane in the Atlantic Ocean), and will maintain its strength as it makes its closest approach to Fiji on Tuesday.
Rain, wind and seas will increase around Keni's center as it tracks towards the southeast.
In advance of the cyclone's arrival, downpours totaled 25-100 mm (1-4 inches) across Viti Levu and Kadavu Island over the weekend, creating a significant risk for flooding from additional downpours.
Impacts to Fiji will worsen as the cyclone makes its closest pass, bringing a variety of threats to the country ranging from heavy rain to damaging winds and coastal flooding.
"It is increasingly likely the strengthening cyclone will pass just southwest of Fiji's main island, Viti Levu, and very close to Fiji’s Kadavu Island," AccuWeather Meteorologist Brett Rossio said.
This track will bring destructive winds and downpours to Kadavu Island with significant impacts possible across Viti Levu.
Currently western and southern Viti Levu look to endure locally damaging winds and flooding downpours. This includes Nadi and Suva. The remainder of the island will receive occasional downpours and gusty winds.
A last-minute shift to the south could spare Viti Levu from any damaging winds; however, Kadavu Island will be dealt the worst impacts in either scenario. As evident by Tropical Cyclone Josie, flooding downpours can target Fiji even when a tropical cyclone does not pass over the country.
Coastal flooding may also ensue, mainly along the north-facing beaches, as inundating seas pound Fiji.
Rossio is especially concerned for the heavy rain to exacerbate or renew significant flooding across Fiji with the ground left overly saturated by Tropical Cyclone Josie. Severe flooding triggered by Josie left six people dead earlier this month, according to ReliefWeb. More than 2,300 people were forced to evacuate.
Lives and property will be threatened as runoff from the heavy rain can inundate some communities, push rivers out of their banks and trigger mudslides.
Some remote areas may get cut off if roads and bridges become damaged or impassable.
After threatening Fiji, the cyclone will pass close enough to bring a period of rain and wind to Tonga from late Tuesday afternoon into Wednesday morning. The storm is expected to then move into the open waters of the southern Pacific Ocean later in the week.
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