Africa News Bulletin

Madagascar: Southeast Madagascar braces for heavy rain from Tropical Cyclone Emnati

For the fourth time this year, Madagascar is preparing for another tropical cyclone. Tropical Cyclone Emnati is expected to make landfall in the southeast portion of the island nation late Tuesday or early Wednesday, bringing widespread rain to a recently battered nation.

According to the Joint Typhoon Warning Center (JTWC), the storm had sustained winds of 90 mph on Tuesday, or the equivalent of a Category 1 hurricane. The slow-moving storm will likely bring heavy rain, landslides and flooding. Widespread rains could register 4 to 8 inches, but some weather models suggests some rainfall totals could approach 2 feet.

Emnati is expected to hit some of the same areas where the deadly Tropical Cyclone Batsirai struck earlier this month. Ahead of Emnati, Red Cross teams are providing early warning support and preparing “emergency relief items” for communities in the storm’s path.

Emnati was at its strongest so far on Monday, with winds spinning at 130 mph — the equivalent of a Category 4 hurricane. The cyclone has weakened due to an eyewall replacement cycle and cooler waters near the Madagascar coast, reported Yale Climate Connections.

While the JTWC forecast suggests continued slow weakening of Emnati may curtail some of the most severe coastal hazards of surge and wind, weather models nonetheless paint a potentially alarming scenario. The European weather model forecasts 10 to 20 inches of rain over the southeast quadrant of the country.

The varied terrain only makes the situation more ominous. “Madagascar is quite mountainous, and floodwaters run off more quickly from deforested mountains, reach higher heights, and cause greater damage,” hurricane expert Jeff Masters wrote Monday.

As the storm approaches landfall, torrential rainfall is expected Tuesday evening and continues through most of Wednesday in the hardest hit zones. As the storm swirls out to sea to the south on Thursday, some remnant bands may deliver more heavy rain to already flooded spots.

Tropical cyclones have killed more than 200 people in Madagascar this year. Tropical Storm Ana crossed the northern part of the country as a strengthening tropical depression on Jan. 22-23. Two weeks later, tropical Cyclone Batsirai struck the south on Feb. 5-6 as the equivalent of a major Category 3 hurricane. Batsirai alone claimed more than 120 lives while displacing nearly 145,000 on the island. The storm nearly completely destroyed some villages on the southeast coast, when massive storm surge swept ashore amid ferocious and destructive winds.

Last week, Tropical Storm Dumako took a path not far from Ana’s on Feb. 15-16. Now Emnati is forecast to make landfall near Manakara on the southeast coast.

Per a database maintained by NOAA, on average the island is impacted by one or two tropical cyclones a year. When it comes to hurricane force storms, it’s about one every one to two years.

“The record for most tropical cyclones to hit Madagascar in one year occurred in 1975, when five named storms and three tropical depressions hit the island,” Masters noted. The latest volley of storms is now tallying four in about four weeks, but there are at least three months left of the core season in that part of the basin, as well.

On top of the cycle activity, Madagascar has been in the midst of its worst drought in decades, focused in the south-southwest portion of the country. Dry conditions have lead to severe famine and significant population displacement.

Original story on Washington Post

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