The powerful cyclone Freddy makes landfall in Madagascar


A powerful and prolonged cyclone collides with south-central Madagascar. When Freddy, the Category 2-equivalent storm, made landfall on Tuesday, travel restrictions and schools and businesses on the island were closed.

Officials in Madagascar reported that at least 2 million people could feel the impact of Freddy, and perhaps another 600,000 may eventually face the storm in Mozambique, according to local reports.

Freddy had sustained winds close to 100 mph, according to Meteo France, as it approached land on the Madagascar coast. Areas near landfall could see significant wind damage, with a diminishing but continuing threat as the storm moves inland.

It is expected to drop 4 to 8 inches of torrential rain in a swath along the track, with upwards of 10 inches possible in some places.

Storm surge – an increase in water levels associated with the storm – of around 2 meters (6.6 ft) is also expected around and north of the landfall point. Waves near the shore were also likely to be as high as 20 to 30 feet.

It follows another tropical system in the past month, which caused flooding and left soils in central Madagascar saturated and unable to hold more water.

Freddy’s landfall is in a relatively rural region of south-central Madagascar, although the town of Mananjary – home to about 25,000 people – is about 30 miles south of where the center roars ashore. Mananjary took a direct hit from a cyclone named Batsirai last year, a storm that killed many people and left large parts of the city in ruins.

Freddy has already had a long life. It originally formed on February 5 northwest of Australia. It was the year’s first Category 5 storm in the middle of last week. It reached Category 5 strength again over the weekend, with sustained winds of 161 mph (140 knots) on Sunday.

Freddy’s two-week trek across the Indian Ocean has been unusual in length and direction. It is one of only four storms to make the entire trip across the Indian Ocean, from east to west, in the modern record. The track is similar to Eline/Leon in February 2000.

By the time it makes final landfall on the African continent, Freddy will have been a named storm for about three weeks.

On its way to Madagascar, the storm passed about 100 miles north of the smaller islands of Mauritius and Reunion. Major airports on both islands were closed, as were coastal thoroughfares.

The main threat to these locations was coastal flooding from storm surges and the potential for torrential rain. Both islands appear to have been spared significant impact, with most services now reopened, according to local reports.

Although Freddy is and has been very intense, the storm is also quite small, which will help limit its effects. It measured about 200 miles across Tuesday morning, with the worst winds and waves confined to an area more like 10 miles from the center.

After landfall, the storm will take about a day to cross Madagascar with the associated risk of flooding and landslides.

After moving back over water in the Mozambique Channel, Freddy is expected to strengthen to hurricane-equivalent strength as it makes another landfall in Mozambique. Given recent flooding there, any additional unsettled weather could be bad news.

Thanks to its long track and powerful nature, the storm has been a monster when it comes to Accumulated Cyclone Energy (ACE), a measure of lifetime intensity. Exceeds an ACE of 65 As of Tuesday morning, it already ranks among the highest ACE producers on Earth in the satellite era dating back to the 1970s. It holds now highest ACE recorded in the Indian Ocean or Southern Hemisphere.

Freddy is the second tropical cyclone to make landfall in Madagascar this season. Cyclone Cheneso made landfall in the northeast on January 17 before crossing large parts of the island and stopping off the county’s west coast.

That storm displaced nearly 100,000 people in Madagascar and killed about three dozen due to flooding. The abundant rainfall, soaked up by the ground, is also likely to exacerbate further flooding from Freddy.

While Madagascar and the surrounding area face threats of tropical cyclones annually, the 2021-2022 tropical cyclone season was unusually intense for the country and the region. It is located in a region of the Indian Ocean with an increased risk of severe storms thanks to climate change.

Freddy is the strongest storm to affect the nation since Batsirai made landfall as a Category 3 equivalent in early February 2022.

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