Tropical Cyclone Sarai Moves Toward Tonga

Tropical Cyclone Sarai moved toward Tonga on Sunday.  At 10:00 p.m. EST on Sunday the center of Tropical Cyclone Sarai was located at latitude 20.7°S and longitude 178.3°E which put it about 220 miles (355 km) west of Nuku Alofa, Tonga.  Sarai was moving toward the east-southeast at 4 m.p.h. (6 km/h).  The maximum sustained wind speed was 65 m.p.h. (105 km/h) and there were wind gusts to 80 m.p.h. (130 km/h).  The minimum surface pressure was 985 mb.

Tropical Cyclone Sarai weakened on Sunday.  An upper level ridge north of Sarai produced strong westerly winds which blew toward the top of the circulation.  Those winds caused strong vertical wind shear which disturbed the circulation around Tropical Cyclone Sarai.  The inner core became less well organized and there was no evidence of an eye on satellite images.  The stronger thunderstorms were occurring in bands in the eastern half of the circulation.  Bands in the western half of the circulation consisted primarily of showers and lower clouds.  The circulation around Tropical Cyclone Sarai was still large.  Winds to tropical storm force extended out 200 miles (320 km) from the center of circulation.

Tropical Cyclone Sarai will continue to move through an environment unfavorable for intensification during the next several days.  Sarai will move over water where the Sea Surface Temperature is near 28°C.  However, the upper level ridge will continue to produce strong westerly winds and vertical wind shear is likely to cause Tropical Cyclone Sarai to weaken further.

Tropical Cyclone Sarai will move south of a subtropical high pressure system over the South Pacific Ocean.  The high pressure system will steer Sarai toward the east during the next several days.  On its anticipated track Tropical Cyclone Sarai will move across Tonga in about 24 hours.  Although Sarai will weaken, it will bring winds to tropical storm force and heavy rain to parts of Tonga.