Being a tropical island nation Fiji is used to storms of varying strengths passing it. Most have gone out to sea or were only weak systems when they passed over the islands. It is used to flooding with heavy rains from tropical depressions that did not make it to Tropical Cyclone status. Although these have times caused significant damage, it potentially pales into relative insignificance when one looks at Tropical Cyclone Winston, a Category 5 monster.
Six days ago Winston was a Category 2 system out to sea several hundred kilometres from land. It was tracking northeast towards Tonga, which copped a glancing blow. Then on 18 February it intensified to a Category 3 storm. The following day it became a Category 4 storm and shortly after, it turned towards Fiji.
By now, T.C. Winston will have passed over the country. At the time of this article being written T.C. Winston had sustained winds of over 220km/h and gusts reaching up to 315km/h. It had Nadi, the major tourist centre square in its sights, and was expected to score a direct hit. Hundreds of people were at the airport trying to get out of Fiji, and were now stuck in the terminal with nowhere they could get to safely before T.C. Winston hit.
The power of this T.C. is a major concern as one feature many people forget about is the storm surge that accompanies such storms. There is likely to be serious flooding in Nadi and Suva both from the surge as well as rivers that will have broken their banks. The wind would have downed power and phone lines and debris will be blocking roads. The fact that many Fijian houses will not be of very strong construction means if their occupants did not take shelter they would be exposed to the wind, rain and flying debris.
As you go about your daily routine on Sunday, spare a thought and perhaps a few dollars for the people of Fiji (money to the Red Cross Pacific Disaster Fund).