Cyclone Lola was bearing down on Vanuatu on Wednesday, Oct. 25, 2023. (AccuWeather Enhanced RealVue™ Satellite)
Tropical Cyclone Lola strengthened before bearing down on the Pacific islands of Vanuatu on Tuesday, bringing an early start to the tropical storm season for the region and putting lives and property at risk in the nation's second-most populated city of Luganville, among other locations.
The Vanuatu Meteorology Department said Lola's central winds were estimated to be over 100 mph (165 km/hr) on Tuesday, making Severe Cyclone Lola the equivalent of a Category 3 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale (SSHWS). Gusts greater than 115 mph (189 km/hr) were clocked by the meteorology department.
At its peak strength, Lola was classified as a Category 5 storm on the Australian Tropical Cyclone Intensity Scale, which differs from the SSHWS scale used to rate hurricanes in the Atlantic and East Pacific as it uses 10-minute sustained winds. A Category 5 is the maximum strength on the Australian Tropical Cyclone Intensity Scale.
"We are expecting to have major, major damages," Vanuatu Red Cross spokesperson Shirley Johnson said. "I am afraid we won't have enough relief in time to save the people."
People under red alert warnings fled to evacuation centers ahead of the cyclone, ABC News reported.
High resolution imagery of Tropical Cyclone Lola approaching Vanuatu today. pic.twitter.com/kyVj7ZTtt6
— CIRA (@CIRA_CSU) October 24, 2023
Lola will continue to impact Vanuatu through Wednesday and may start to lose wind intensity later Wednesday or Thursday, according to AccuWeather Lead International Forecaster Jason Nicholls. Heavy rainfall is likely to trigger flash flooding as damaging winds and coastal flooding strike the islands of Torba, Sanma, Penama and Malampa.
New Caledonia will feel impacts from Lola on Thursday and Friday, Nicholls said.
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