March 15, 2014 - Tropical Cyclone Lusi (18P) in the South Pacific Ocean
Tropical Cyclone Lusi was weakening as it approached Vanuatu on March 12, but remained strong enough to cause significant damage, including loss of life, in that island nation. According to an Australian News Network report on March 14, an initial disaster assessment identified a landslide on Santo Island which killed three people and injured one. Six people, including three children were reported missing, and are the subjects of a search-and rescue mission. Disaster officials continue aerial surveillance and assessment to determine what assistance is needed on the islands.
The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) aboard NASAís Terra satellite captured this true-color image of the storm at 22:25 UTC (6:25 UTC) on March 12. The eye appears large and cloud-filled and the strongest storm bands are broadening and weakening as they are pushed to the southeast quadrant by wind shear in the northwest. Several small islands of Vanuatu are outlined by black borderlines, and visible to the west of the storm. The large island of New Caledonia sits southwest of the eye.
On March 13 at 0900 UTC (5:00 a.m. EDT) Tropical Cyclone Lusi remained at hurricane force strength with maximum sustained winds near 75 mph (120 km/h). The storm was centered near 24.2 south latitude and 173.9 east longitude, about 467 mi (752 km) southwest of Suva, Fiji, and was moving to the southeast at 19.5 mph (31.5 km/h).
Although Lusi may bring soaking rains to New Zealandís North Island, the storm is expected to continue to weaken. The Joint Typhoon Warning Center (JTWC) reports that the upper level wind shear is expected to become more unfavorable, while sea surface temperatures will also decrease leading to further weakening. The system is predicted to complete its extra-tropical transition within the next 36 hours.