Tropical Cyclone Sarai to scrape Fiji with flooding rainfall, high winds

Renee Duff
A satellite view of newly formed Tropical Cyclone Sarai bearing down on Fiji early Friday morning, local time. (RAMMB/CIRA)

Sarai, the southwest Pacific Ocean's latest named tropical cyclone, will track dangerously close to Fiji with downpours and strong winds into the weekend.

A disturbance that AccuWeather meteorologists have been monitoring throughout the week strengthened to a Category 1 tropical cyclone on the Fiji Meteorological Service intensity scale early Friday morning, local time. This intensity is equivalent to a tropical storm in the Atlantic or East Pacific basins.

On Friday, Sarai intensified into a Category 2 tropical cyclone as it continues to track to the south and then southeast into Saturday. At this intensity, Sarai would be the equivalent of a strong tropical storm or Category 1 hurricane in the Atlantic or East Pacific basins.

Fiji's National Disaster Management Office announced that evacuation centers have opened their doors for people to seek shelter from the cyclone.

Fiji Airways has cancelled a number of flights and a major tourist travel company in the country has suspended cruise operations until the weather improves, according to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

"Tropical Cyclone Sarai will likely pass near Fiji Friday night into Saturday," AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Jason Nicholls said. "Heavy rainfall of 3-6 inches (75-150 mm) with an AccuWeather Local Storm Max™ of 9 inches (225 mm) will be possible into Saturday. Wind gusts of 60-80 mph (95-130 km/h) can also occur."

Rainfall amounts of this magnitude can trigger flash flooding and mudslides.

The strong winds can lead to localized damage. People are strongly encouraged to tie down any loose outdoor items that can become dangerous projectiles in the wind.

Prior to rain and wind increasing, rough surf and seas will also be hazards to bathers and anyone with marine interests across the region into the weekend.

"Beyond Fiji, the cyclone will turn southeast into the open South Pacific and should pose no threat to Australia or New Zealand," Nicholls said.

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