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Tropical Cyclone Kenneth is now making a catastrophic, unprecedented strike in northern Mozambique just weeks after another Tropical Cyclone Idai’scatastrophic storm surge and rainfall flooding swamped parts of central Mozambique; Malawi and Zimbabwe.
At a Glance
- Tropical Cyclone Kenneth is now striking Northern Mozambique.
- It is the first known hurricane-strength landfall in Cabo Delgado Province in recent times.
- Destructive winds and life-threatening storm surge will accompany the landfall.
- Feet of rain are likely the next several days, leading to widespread, life-threatening flooding.
- This catastrophe comes just over a month after the devastating strike from Tropical Cyclone Idai.
Tropical Cyclone Kenneth is now making a catastrophic, unprecedented strike in northern Mozambique just weeks after another Tropical Cyclone Idai’s catastrophic storm surge and rainfall flooding swamped parts of central Mozambique.
(INTERACTIVE: Current Satellite, Forecast Path)
Kenneth rapidly intensified from Category 1 to a Category 4-equivalent tropical cyclone since Wednesday, and is now bearing down on the coast of northern Mozambique’s Cabo Delgado Province.
Kenneth will be the strongest cyclone strike in this part of Mozambique in recent memory. There is no record of a hurricane-strength tropical cyclone in Cabo Delgado Province in NOAA’s historical database.
(IN-DEPTH: Kenneth is a Rare Southern African Cyclone)
The eye of Kenneth is making landfall north of the city of Pemba, which has a population of about 200,000, roughly the population of Birmingham, Alabama.
Mozambique’s national airline LAM suspended flights between the capital Maputo and Pemba, Africa News reported.
Mozambique’s National Disasters Management Institute (INGC) told Africa News it would relocate rescue equipment, including boats and helicopters previously reserved for victims of last month’s Tropical Cyclone Idai to Cabo Delgado Province where Kenneth will strike.
The INGC estimated 682,500 people were at risk from the storm in Cabo Delgado and Niassa provinces, 112,000 of which could see hurricane-force winds.
Since wind flows clockwise around tropical cyclones in the Southern Hemisphere, this landfall would drive a life-threatening storm surge of 3 to 5 meters – 10 to 16 feet – along and south of the landfall location, according to the Météo-France Tropical Cyclone Center in La Reunion, which issues official forecasts for tropical cyclones in this part of the Indian Ocean basin.
Destructive winds will occur in the eyewall near the landfall location, capable of destroying poorly-built homes, heavily damaging even well-built homes, and downing numerous trees and powerlines.
Rainfall Flood Danger
Kenneth will then slow down and possibly stall after landfall. While it will quickly weaken, slow-moving or stalling tropical cyclones are notoriously prodigious rainfall producers.
A swath of northern Mozambique, including most of the Cabo Delgado Province, may receive 10 to 20 inches (25 to 50 centimeters) of rain, or even locally higher, through this weekend, triggering potentially catastrophic, widespread flooding.
Pemba, Mozambique, may see two to three times as much rainfall as it would normally see in April. The city typically sees around 5 inches of rainfall in April. Some locations may receive 50 percent or more of their typical annual rainfall in a matter of days.
Comoro Islands Slammed
Kenneth’s eyewall slammed the Comoro Islands, an archipelago with a population of nearly 1 million people between the African mainland and Madagascar, early Wednesday with wind-driven rainfall, storm surge and wind gusts as high as 145 mph.
According to AFP, some shacks were destroyed in the capital, Moroni. Trees and powerlines were also downed in the city.
Motorists were advised to stay off roads to allow emergency personnel to reach damaged areas.
Comoran media reported airports and schools were closed ahead of Kenneth’s arrival Wednesday.
Tropical Cyclone History in Comoros and Mozambique
The Comoro Islands have little experience with tropical cyclones since the islands lie very close to the equator, between 11 and 13 degrees south latitude. According to EM-DAT, the Comoros have endured only three damaging tropical cyclones since 1983. The deadliest and most destructive was Tropical Cyclone Elinah, which passed through the islands as a tropical storm with 45- to 50-mph winds on Jan. 11, 1983, killing 33 people and causing $23 million in damages. All 33 deaths occurred when a huge wave swept 40 people on the island of Anjouan into the water.
The last time a hurricane-strength tropical cyclone affected the islands was on Feb. 17, 1996, when Category 1 Doloresse passed about 40 miles to the west of the northern Comoros Islands.
Tropical Cyclone Kenneth is only the third satellite-era system to evolve to a moderate tropical storm stage or higher in the area north of the Mozambique Channel, according to Météo-France. The two other systems, Elinah in 1983 and Doloresse in 1996, did not reach the African coast.
“Tropical Cyclone Kenneth therefore threatens an area where the population is not used to cyclones,” noted a ReliefWeb update.
The Aftermath of Tropical Cyclone Idai
Tropical Cyclone Idai made landfall on March 14 as a Category 2 storm with 110-mph winds just north of Beira, Mozambique (population 530,000), near the time of high tide, driving a devastating storm surge into the city. Idai also caused enormous wind damage, ripping off hundreds of roofs in Mozambique’s fourth-largest city. Since the cyclone was large and moving slowly at landfall, near 6 mph, it was a prodigious rainmaker, with satellite-estimated rainfall amounts in excess of 2 feet in portions of central Mozambique.
The official death toll for Idai on April 23 stood at 1,007, with 602 killed in Mozambique, 344 in Zimbabwe, 60 in Malawi and one in Madagascar. Total economic damages to infrastructure in Mozambique alone were estimated at $1 billion (over 8 percent of their gross domestic product) – their most expensive natural disaster in history. The World Bank estimated that combined damages to Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi would exceed $2 billion.
As of April 22, ReliefWeb reported that 73,000 people in Mozambique were living in shelters, and 1.85 million people were in need of assistance. About 6,600 cases of cholera had been reported, including at least seven deaths, but the number of cases was on the decline thanks to a successful vaccination effort.
Portions of this article were originally from Weather Underground’s Category 6 blog, written by meteorologists Dr. Jeff Masters and Bob Henson.