April 25, 2019

Another Intense Tropical Cyclone Makes Landfall in Mozambique

Tropical Cyclone Kenneth made landfall in storm-battered Mozambique late Thursday night with the equivalent strength of a category four hurricane. The remnants of the storm are expected to slow to a crawl over the next couple of days, bringing significant wind damage and a deep storm surge to coastal communities in the path of the eyewall, as well as potentially devastating flooding from heavy rain across northern Mozambique and southern Tanzania. Kenneth will make landfall a few hundred miles north of the region devastated by Cyclone Idai in March.

The center of the cyclone made landfall in a concave bay north of Pemba. The town of Pangane and a small coastal community east of Mucojo appear to have experienced the full force of Cyclone Kenneth’s eyewall. Satellite imagery shows hundreds of homes—many likely poorly constructed—right along the coast or on flat terrain within a mile of the water. The wind and surge will likely result in the destruction of these communities.

Source: Tropical Tidbits

The latest forecast from the Joint Typhoon Warning Center (JTWC) shows Kenneth slowly making its way inland and meandering over northern Mozambique for the next couple of days. This will lead to catastrophic flooding from more than a foot of rain in many areas.

Analyses right before landfall late Thursday night showed that Cyclone Kenneth was the equivalent of a category four on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale, packing maximum sustained winds of about 140 MPH just before the eye crossed land. This makes Kenneth one of the strongest storms ever recorded on landfall in Mozambique.

This cyclone is an especially devastating blow as the country is still reeling from the effects of Cyclone Idai, which made landfall in central Mozambique on March 15. Idai reportedly destroyed 90 percent of the port town of Beira with a storm surge deep enough to fully submerge most one-story buildings. The storm killed more than 1,000 people in Mozambique and surrounding countries, leaving hundreds of thousands of residents in a humanitarian crisis that will continue for years—now made even worse by the added effects of Cyclone Kenneth.

This is now the most active cyclone season on record for the southwestern Indian Ocean. Unfortunately, as we’ve seen so many times in the United States, a hyperactive tropical cyclone season greatly increases the odds that a powerful storm will make a direct landfall.

It’s unusual for Mozambique to see one cyclone in a year, let alone two major storms in a month’s time. Mozambique is typically protected from major cyclones by the island nation of Madagascar, which sits a few hundred miles off the coast. Cyclones often weaken as they cross Madagascar—however, Idai was able to rapidly strengthen in the Mozambique Channel, and Kenneth skirted Madagascar to the north.

Tropical cyclones are called different names around the world. Mature tropical cyclones are known as hurricanes around North America, typhoons in the northwestern Pacific Ocean, and simply "cyclones" everywhere else in the world. While the name changes depending on the ocean basin, the basic structure and effects are the same no matter where they form.

[Top Image: UW/SSEC]

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I graduated from the University of South Alabama in 2014 with a degree in political science and a minor in meteorology. I contribute to The Weather Network as a digital writer, and I've written for Forbes, the Washington Post's Capital Weather Gang, Popular Science, Mental Floss, and Gawker's The Vane. My latest book, The Skies Above, is now available. My first book, The Extreme Weather Survival Manual, arrived in October 2015.