By Faith Eherts, AccuWeather meteorologist
By Adam Douty, AccuWeather meteorologist
May 13,2017, 12:35:54PM,EDT
After slamming Wallis and Futana during the end of the week with heavy rain and strong winds, out-of-season Tropical Cyclone Ella will pass just to the north of the Fiji islands through Sunday.
Ella is now a Category 2 storm on the Fiji storm intensity scale. On the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale, Ella currently has the intensity of a tropical storm.
While the Pacific cyclone season ends in April, Ella battered areas just northeast of Fiji, including Wallis and Futana, beginning on Wednesday. This put the French island Futuna “effectively in lockdown,” according to RadioNZ.
The Fiji Meteorological Service has issued a tropical cyclone alert, which was downgraded from a tropical cyclone warning since Thursday. The storm is expected to track westward, passing to the north of the closest island, Vanua Levu.
“All communities should remain prepared at all times, take necessary precautions when alerts, warnings and advisories are issued,” warned the Fiji Meteorological Office in a media release on Saturday evening.
While the Fiji island of Vanua Levu will experience the worst of the storm’s impacts, only gusty southeasterly winds and scattered, but heavy, thunderstorms are expected.
Cyclone Winston devastated the island nation in 2016, going on record as the strongest tropical cyclone in the South Pacific in recorded history. Residents can breathe a sigh of relief at Ella’s relatively benign forecast.
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Mariners face the greatest risk from this system, however, as strong winds continue to promote high seas.
Very rough seas and wind gusts up to 45 knots will endanger those heading out to sea as far south as Vanua Levu. Closer to the storm, seas will make for difficult and dangerous maneuvering as winds gust up to 70 knots.
The island of Rotuma is also currently in the line of fire. However, the slow-moving storm is expected to weaken through the next couple of days, limiting any impacts the island may experience by the time Ella approaches at the end of the weekend.
Ella is expected to dissipate before reaching Vanuatu.