Cyclone Yasa striking Fiji with winds of close to 150mph

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Tropical cyclone Yasa is making landfall in Fiji with winds estimated at close to 150 mph, threatening significant damage to the island of Vanua Levu, while the main island of Viti Levu and capital city of Suva is also being affected.

Cyclone Yasa intensified rapidly on approach to Fiji this week and set a course directly for Fiji’s second most populous island of Vanua Levu.

Local officials in Fiji have warned of potential devastation for the region directly impacted by the eye of Cyclone Yasa, while more broadly damaging impacts are expected across the archipelago.

Cyclone Yasa has reduced in intensity as it approached Fiji and is expected to reduce in intensity now that it is beginning to make landfall, but still the local impacts are expected to be significant.

Cyclone Yasa forecast tracking map

As ever with major storms affecting islands in the Pacific, the exposure to the global reinsurance industry is not particularly significant.

But locally, the insured damages could be high for Fiji and as a result there is always a chance of some insurers operating in the region tapping their reinsurance partners for support.

There are a number of parametric insurance initiatives in the region, of which Fiji benefits from some coverage.

These include the recently launched UN backed Pacific Insurance and Climate Adaptation Programme.

Insurance and reinsurance broker Aon’s Impact Forecasting unit provided the following information on Cyclone Yasa as it bore down on Fiji:

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Cyclone Yasa, located approximately 240 kilometers (150 miles) north-northwest of Suva, Fiji, is currently tracking east-southeast at 20 kph (13 mph). Satellite imagery continues to show deep convective bands wrapping into a very well-defined eye feature as the cyclone further tracks towards Fiji. While it has lost some of its intensity from 24 hours ago, the latest Dvorak satellite intensity estimates continue to justify the JTWC keeping the storm’s 1-minute average sustained wind speeds at 240 kph (150 mph). This makes Yasa a strong Category 4 equivalent storm on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale.

Atmospheric and oceanic analysis shows that generally favorable environmental conditions persist, characterized by warm sea surface temperatures, moderate wind shear, and robust cloud outflow aloft. The system is tracking generally southeastward along the western periphery of a steering ridge of high pressure located to the east.

In the near term, Yasa is expected to make landfall on Vanua Vevu, Fiji in the next few hours. During and after landfall, the storm should gradually weaken due to the continued moderate wind shear and increased land interaction. At the 12-hour forecast point, the JTWC has Yasa as a 210 kph (130 mph) storm; still a dangerous Category 4 equivalent. An incoming mid-latitude trough from the west will weaken the current steering ridge in the next 24 to 36 hours, which will cause Yasa to follow a more south-southeasterly track before another ridge located to the south takes over as the primary steering mechanism. Between 48 and 72 hours, the system will begin to turn southwestward along the northern periphery of the steering ridge. Yasa will gradually weaken to a 150 kph (90 mph) storm by Day 3. At that point, cooler ocean waters and much stronger wind shear will lead to faster decay.

Between days 3 and 5, steady weakening will occur as Yasa becomes a minimal tropical storm over the open waters of the South Pacific. Similar to previous model runs, the model track envelope is bound by some solutions taking Yasa more to the west and others more to the east. However, some of the more dependable models are leaning towards a more eastward shift, and the JTWC has followed.

It is worth noting that Fiji is still in the midst of recovering from Category 4 equivalent impacts of Cyclone Harold that impacted the archipelago in April 2020.

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