Tropical Cyclone Harold Approaches Fiji

Tropical Cyclone Harold approached Fiji on Tuesday morning.  At 5:00 a.m. EDT on Tuesday the center of Tropical Cyclone Harold was located at latitude 17.4°S and longitude 173.4°E which put it about 270 miles (435 km) west of Nadi, Fiji.  Harold was moving toward the east-southeast at 17 m.p.h. (28 km/h).  The maximum sustained wind speed was 125 m.p.h. (200 km/h) and there were wind gusts to 155 m.p.h. (250 km/h).  The minimum surface pressure was 943 mb.

Although the maximum sustained wind speed in Tropical Cyclone Harold decreased, the area of stronger winds increased.  Winds to hurricane/typhoon force extended out 70 miles (110 km) from the center of Harold.  Winds to tropical storm force extended out 200 miles (320 km) from the center of circulation.  The Hurricane Intensity Index (HII) for Tropical Cyclone Harold was 23.6.  The Hurricane Size Index (HSI) was 22.1 and the Hurricane Wind Intensity Size Index (HWISI) was 45.7.  Tropical Cyclone Harold was capable of causing major damage.

The circulation around Tropical Cyclone Harold increased in size on Tuesday.  The previous small eye was no longer visible on satellite imagery, but the most recent images suggested that a larger eye could be developing that the center of circulation.  The newly forming eye was surround by a ring of strong thunderstorms and the strongest winds were occurring in that ring of storms.  Bands of showers and thunderstorms were revolving around the center of Harold.  Storms near the center were generating upper level divergence which was pumping mass away from the tropical cyclone.

Tropical Cyclone Harold will move through an environment favorable for intensification during the next 12 to 24 hours.  Harold will move over water where the Sea Surface Temperature is near 30°C.  It will move under the southwestern part of an upper level ridge over the South Pacific Ocean.  The ridge will produce northwesterly winds which will blow toward the top of the circulation.  Those winds will cause some vertical wind shear, but they will not be strong enough to prevent intensification.  Tropical Cyclone Harold could strengthen during the next 12 to 24 hours.

Tropical Cyclone Harold will move around the southwestern part of a high pressure system over the South Pacific Ocean.  The high will steer Harold toward the east-southeast during the next several days.  On its anticipated track Tropical Cyclone Harold could reach Fiji within 12 hours.  Harold will be capable of causing major wind damage.  It will drop heavy rain and flash floods are likely.  Tropical Cyclone Harold could reach Tonga within 36 hours.