MOMBASA, Kenya (AP) — Record-breaking Cyclone Freddy made a second landfall in Mozambique on Saturday night, hitting the South African nation with torrential rain and disrupting transport and telecommunications services.
The French weather agency Météo-France warned of “destructive and devastating” winds and “dangerous seas and heavy rains” that could lead to landslides. It said Freddy would move further inland over the weekend, causing heavy rains in Mozambique and southern Malawi, with rain also likely in Zimbabwe and Zambia.
It is the second time Freddy has hit the country, with the cyclone originally making landfall late last month.
Météo-France also expressed concerns that Freddy is unlikely to weaken over land in the coming week and is highly likely to return to sea. Freddy landed with maximum offshore winds of 155 kilometers (about 100 miles) per hour and sea gusts averaging 220 kilometers (about 140 miles) per hour, the agency said.
Freddy was originally en route to land in the country on Friday night but stalled over the Mozambique Channel. The cyclone then intensified on Saturday, regaining strength as it sped toward land, Mozambique’s National Institute of Meteorology said.
The cyclone’s second strike is inundating a low-lying, vast country full of rivers and “almost all of them don’t have dams” to alleviate flooding, said Salomao Bandeira, a researcher at Mozambique’s Universidade Eduardo Mondlane. Floods in the country earlier this year have hit regions where major rivers are controlled by dams, allowing for some degree of control, Bandeira said, stoking fears that hit could lead to more destruction.
The projected deluge is already worrying health and disaster management agencies in Mozambique and Malawi, who have been battling cases of cholera and other waterborne diseases lately. The United Nations and EU-led disaster warning system has already issued a red alert and predicts that around 2.3 million people will be affected. The Mozambique Disaster Institute has moved thousands of people to storm shelters in anticipation.
“More lives are being saved in Mozambique today,” Bandeira said, due to the early preparation.
In a statement released Saturday, the Malawi Red Cross said it had activated its early response teams in southern Malawi to prepare for the cyclone.
Earlier in the week, Freddy’s longevity and startling trajectories prompted the UN weather agency to set up a committee to determine if it broke the record as the longest-lasting tropical cyclone in recorded history, having traveled more than 8,000 kilometers (5,000 miles). had southern Indian Ocean.
The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said Freddy has already been catapulted into the record books for the second-highest accumulated cyclone energy, or ACE, a measure of a cyclone’s energy over time.
Freddy is also the third storm on record to last longer than 22 days, NOAA’s Carl Schreck said. Hurricane John in 1994 and an unnamed Atlantic hurricane in 1899 are the other two. The natural weather event La Nina and a negative dipole in the Indian Ocean or a change in temperature over the ocean “may have produced sea temperatures and atmospheric circulation that made such an event more likely,” Schreck added.
Any storm that can stay at such a “strong intensity for so long and make landfall twice is important in terms of human impact and in terms of science,” said Kristen Corbosiero, professor of atmospheric and environmental sciences at the University of Albany .
“Intense storms generally go through a series of eyewall replacement cycles and fluctuations in intensity,” where the cyclone begins to develop a new eye, Corbosiero said. “But Freddy didn’t have those cycles for most of his life cycle. Trying to understand why will be a good research topic.”
Associated Press science writer Seth Borenstein contributed to this report from Washington, DC ___
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