Residents in the African nations of Tanzania and Mozambique are preparing for potential destruction from Tropical Cyclone Kenneth. The ferocious storm is heading towards the eastern coast of Africa with torrential rain, in addition to winds of nearly 145 mph as of early this morning (Thursday, April 25, 2019). In terms of Atlantic hurricane strength, the cyclone is a Category 4 storm on the Saffir-Simpson wind scale.
Communities in northern Mozambique and the region of Mtwara in southern Tanzania have been warned to go to higher ground and seek shelter. United Nations (UN) officials said they fear the cyclone could cause a “humanitarian catastrophe.” The region in Kenneth’s target zone has never been hit by a tropical cyclone since the start of the satellite era, according to BBC Weather and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).
Last month, Cyclone Idai devastated parts of Mozambique that, thankfully, will be spared from Kenneth’s wrath, as well as destroying several communities in Zimbabwe and Malawi. Idai killed more than 800 people and shut down roads for days. Millions of people were left in need of humanitarian assistance.
Kenneth is expected to make landfall on the northern coast of Mozambique sometime tonight, local time (six hours ahead of Eastern Daylight Time). Heavy rain could last for several days after landfall, and flights have already been cancelled as well as schools closed as people in Mozambique wait for the storm to hit.
The cyclone’s violent winds and rains hit the island nation of Comoros last night. Authorities there say the storm killed at least three people. Power went out and trees were blown down on the country’s two main islands, Reuters reported early this morning.
The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) shared images of the damage on social media, tweeting that it had volunteers assisting in recovery. On Wednesday, Mami Mizutori, the head of the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction, warned on Twitter that Kenneth was already equal in intensity to Cyclone Idai.
Meteorologists expect the storm to produce major flooding in some areas of Mozambique, with storm surges of 10 to 15 feet expected. Despite Zimbabwe being further inland, officials there said they are still putting their disaster management agencies on alert.
“Drawing lessons from Cyclone Idai we cannot take chances anymore,” Nathan Nkomo, a director in the Department of Civil Protection, told the BBC earlier today.
Tropical Cyclone Kenneth may tear apart homes and power grids along its journey inland, but the storm will likely stay far enough away from oil interests and major ports in this part of the world. Dar es Salaam, home to Tanzania’s principal port and the Tanzanian Italian Petroleum Refining Co Ltd, is 370 miles from the storm’s eye and out of harm’s way.