Last update: November 14th, 2019 at 11:00 am
NASA’s Aqua satellite passed over Tropical Cyclone Zena (18P) on April 5 at 02:40 UTC (April 4 at 10:40 pm EDT) soon after it formed west of Vanuatu in the Southern Pacific Ocean and captured a true-color image of the storm. Strong thunderstorms circled the center of the tropical storm and a wide, thick band of thunderstorms wrapped into the center from the south.
Tropical Cyclone Zena was a short-lived storm that formed on April 5 and was dissipating by April 8. It peaked in strength early on April 6 as a Category 2 storm on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane wind scale, with maximum sustained winds of about 103 mph (167 km/h). According to the Global Disaster Alert and Coordination System (GDACS), about 3,700 people on Fiji and Tonga were potentially affected by winds of greater than 75 mph (120 km/h), which is hurricane-strength (Category 1) winds.
Significant concern arose for Fiji as Tropical Cyclone Zena initially took aim at that location as it was intensifying. Fortunately, by the time Zena passed near the island of Viti Levu’s southwest, it was was rapidly weakening. Rather than catastrophe, the weaker Zena brought heavy rain but minimal additional damage to the area still recovering from Tropical Cyclone Winston, which struck in February. Thousands of Fijians still remain in transitional housing due to that earlier storm, and more than 8,000 people were reported to have gone to evacuation centers as Tropical Cyclone Zena approached.
After skirting Fiji, Zena headed towards Tonga, triggering storm alerts. Fortunately, the storm continued to weaken. Although heavy rain and strong winds accompanied Tropical Cyclone Zena, damage in Tonga appears to be minimal.