Tropical Cyclone Pam Makes Direct Hit on Vanuatu Capital
PHOTO: Satellite imagery of Cyclone Pam via Weather.com
One of the strongest South Pacific storms in recent memory, Tropical Cyclone Pam has made a direct hit on Port Vila, the capital of the Republic of Vanuatu.
The island chain nation located rougly 1,200 miles northeast of Brisbane, Australia in the South Pacific is experiencing Category 5 winds and is under the threat of serious damage from heavy rainfall, flooding and potential landslides.
According to the U.S. military's Joint Typhoon Warning Center via Weather.com, Pam had maximum sustained winds estimated at 165 mph as of early Friday morning (Friday night local time).
"[It's] very bad news for Efate and the capital of Port Vila," said Weather Channel senior meteorologist Matt Crowther.
Prior to Pam making landfall, the Republic's meteorological services warned of "very destructive winds and very rough to phenomenal seas with heavy swells."
According to the latest forecasts via CNN, parts of Vanuatu could experience flooding anywhere from one to two feet. "The cyclone's coming through, but then we've probably got 48 hours of humongous tropical storms as well, which is going to dump a lot of rain on an area that's been hit by a cyclone that may have a lot of damage," said CARE International for the Vanuatu program director Inga Mepham.
"There's a lot of risk right now, and there's a lot of risk in the next four to five days as well."
Fortunately, local residents were making preparations in advance of the storm. Evacuation alerts were issued in some places and officials have advised those in the storm's path to hunker down in nearby churches, schools and other sturdy structures.
"The strongest thing they've got is cement churches," said Mepham. "Some of them don't have that. It's hard to find a structure that you'd think would be able to withstand a Category 5 (storm)."
Vanuatu, which is comprised of 80-plus small islands, boasts a population of roughly 224,000.
Although Pam is expected to begin weakening this weekend, watches and warnings have been issued in the Solomon Islands and New Zealand.
The latest projected path from the Weather Channel has Pam moving southeast and weakening to a Category 1 storm by Sunday.
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