Coast KZN

18 Jan 2021

Could tropical storm Eloise hit northern KZN?

Tamlyn Jolly (Zululand Observer) Picture: Tropical storm Eloise is expected to make landfall in Madagascar on Tuesday, and Mozambique on Saturday

Storm experts in South Africa are closely following tropical cyclone Eloise which has been developing in the Indian Ocean, making its way towards the African coast.

As of 10 am this (Monday) morning, Eloise is expected to make landfall at Madagascar tomorrow evening, where she will weaken significantly, but intensify again as she emerges into the Mozambican Channel by Thursday. She is expected to hit the southern parts of Mozambique on Saturday.

Eloise is currently rated as a moderate tropical storm, but is expected to intensify to a cyclone before making landfall in Madagascar tomorrow.

According to Storm Report SA, Eloise could reach cyclone level while making her way down the Mozambican Channel and could have a ‘big impact’ not only on southern Mozambique, but on parts of South Africa and on Eswatini (Swaziland) too. Severe Weather and Information Centre SA predicts that waves as high as 4.8m could be recorded in the Mozambican Channel.

Storm Report SA says current tracking data indicates that Eloise could move southwest upon making landfall in Mozambique, thus impacting Mpumalanga, Eswatini (Swaziland), KZN and Limpopo. However, Severe Weather and Information Centre SA indicates that more recent data suggests Eloise is more likely to head in a more northerly direction towards Beira.

Should Eloise turn southwesterly and hit northern KZN, all eyes will be on the recently breached St Lucia estuary mouth.

The last time a tropical cyclone impacted northern KZN was Irina in the 2011/12 season. Irina was considered the most devastating cyclone that season, having formed from a tropical wave that was located north of Madagascar. The disturbance continued to move south and became Irina on 27 February. Irina moved parallel to the Madagascar coast, causing extreme flooding which claimed 77 lives.

What is a tropical cyclone?
This is a rapidly rotating storm system characterised by a low pressure centre, a closed low-level atmospheric circulation, strong winds, and a spiral arrangement of thunderstorms that produce heavy rain or squalls. Depending on its location and strength, a tropical cyclone is referred to by different names, namely hurricane (Atlantic and northeast Pacific oceans), typhoon (northwestern Pacific Ocean), tropical storm, cyclonic storm (south Pacific or Indian oceans), tropical depression or just a cyclone.

‘Tropical’ refers to the geographical origin of these systems, which form almost exclusively over tropical seas.