Two huge storms

  • Two huge storms
    02.02.2011 10:25


    A Category 5 cyclone is as big as they come, and that is what is bearing down on the north Queensland coast, Australia, at the time of writing.

    Severe Tropical Cyclone Yasi has been strengthening and growing to a storm of massive proportions while moving WSW across the Coral Sea, and will be at its peak just as it approaches the coast south of Cairns at around 11pm local time on Tuesday.

    With sustained winds close to 150mph and gusts of 190mph, this will be one of the fiercest cyclones on record in Australia. For comparison, Hurricane Katrina peaked with sustained winds of 175mph when it devastated New Orleans in 2005.

    It is, of course, also going to dump torrential rain over a region that is just recovering from the appalling floods of December and January. Indications are for 100 to 150mm of rain in 24 hours over a large areas, with potential for more locally.

    Winds will ease as the storm moves inland during the next day or two but it will be a gradual process and there will be more heavy rain.

    The storm surge south of the cyclone's centre is huge, and will itself bring severe flodding to low-lying areas along and near the coast. Townsville has recorded its highest ever tide of 6.6 metres.

    Meanwhile a major winter storm has wreaked havoc across much of the USA. It developed over the Southern Plains on Monday night then moved north-eastwards up the Ohio Valley, dragging Arctic air southwards as it passed and producing blizzards across the Central Plains.

    The effects were felt as far south as Texas and other southern states. In Dallas the temperature plummeted below freezing after having been in the twenties Celsius on Monday. It is forecast to drop to single digits on the Fahrenheit scale Wednesday and Thursday for the first time since 1996, with a minimum of -13 deg C (8 deg F).

    The storm will re-form off the mid-Atlantic or New England coast later today before moving off towards Nova Scotia, bringing half a metre to a metre of snow across large portions of the central and north-eastern states.

    Heavy freezing rain will also be a hazard, chiefly on the southern boundary of the heavy snow area, including areas just north of Washington, D.C.

    By: Stephen Davenport