Powerful Tropical Cyclone Enawo, which has been intensifying off the northeastern edge of Madagascar, is moving toward a dangerous landfall on the island nation on Tuesday. The formidable storm is likely to strike as the equivalent to a Category 3 or even a Category 4 hurricane, packing estimated winds of at least 130 miles per hour as of Monday afternoon eastern time.
The cyclone is the same type of storm as a hurricane, but called a different term in that part of the world. An abundant supply of warm waters in the southwest Indian Ocean has been fueling the storm’s rapid intensification, along with favorable atmospheric conditions (for the cyclone, that is).
Meteo Madagascar has issued a red alert for the northeast coast of Madagascar, warning residents to move away from homes near the water’s edge and seek shelter in sturdy buildings.
In addition to strong winds, the storm will also bring the threat of storm-surge flooding and heavy rains and mudslides. The northeastern part of the island is expected to see at least a foot of rainfall in a short period of time, with mountainous areas receiving the most rain.
It’s possible that some areas will pick up even more rain as the storm slowly moves down the eastern part of the island, moving from northeast to southwest.
Heavy rains from the storm may trigger flash flooding and mudslides, including in and around the capital of Antananarivo, which has a population of about 1.4 million.
If the storm causes a humanitarian crisis in Madagascar, it would come at a time when international resources are already stretched thin. The United Nations is already struggling to respond to a famine and severe food shortages in other parts of Africa.
Having a strong tropical cyclone in February is typical for the Indian Ocean, though Madagascar does not frequently see storms of this intensity. According to weather.com, the last tropical cyclone of at least hurricane intensity—with sustained winds greater than 74 miles per hour—to hit Madagascar was Cyclone Hellen in March of 2014.
The last comparable storm to Enawo that came ashore in northeastern Madagascar was Tropical Cyclone Gafilo, which hit in March 2004. That storm killed more than 350 and destroyed more than 20,000 roads.