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Massive Cyclone Pam to Slam Vanuatu

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A major cyclone that could pack winds over 150 miles-per-hour is moving into the southwest Pacific Ocean, and it may severely impact the nation of Vanuatu, located about 1300 miles east of Australia.

As of Wednesday evening U.S. time, Cyclone Pam’s maximum sustained winds were already over 130 miles-per-hour (MPH), making it the equivalent of a Category 4 hurricane. The Joint Typhoon Warning Center (JTWC), run by the meteorological branch of the U.S. military, expects the storm to strengthen to the equivalent of Category 5 strength (157 MPH or greater) by Thursday evening U.S. time.

Vanuatu’s Meteorological Services have issued a Tropical Cyclone Warning for four provinces in the country, warning that “damaging winds and very rough seas with heavy swells will affect Torba, Penama, Sanma, and Malampa provinces. Heavy rainfall and flooding, including flash flooding are expected over low lying areas and areas close to river banks.”

Sustained winds, warns the JTWC, could top out at 165 MPH just as it makes its closest approach to Vanuatu, home to over a quarter million people. The biggest concern could be that Pam’s strongest winds, at least according tot the JTWC’s forecast, will also fall in line with its nearest approach to Vanuatu’s capital and largest city, Port Vila, home to about 50,000 people.

Cyclones are the same as hurricanes, just with a different name.

This is the end of the southwestern Pacific’s cyclone season, which runs until April (the seasons are reversed in the Southern Hemisphere).

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Map: The map is the JTWC’s forecast track for Pam – Vanuatu is the island chain to the left of the clustered dots (forecast cyclone locations).

Meteorologist Chris Bianchi

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