It is the second time Freddy has hit land, with the cyclone originally making landfall late last month.
Météo-France also expressed concern that Freddy is unlikely to weaken overland over the next week and that there is a good chance that he will go back to sea. Freddy made landfall with maximum offshore winds of 155 kilometers (about 100 miles) per hour and offshore winds averaging 220 kilometers (about 140 miles) per hour, the agency said.
Freddy was initially on course to make landfall in the country on Friday evening, but stalled over the Mozambique Channel. The cyclone intensified on Saturday and regained strength as it stormed toward land, Mozambique’s National Institute of Meteorology said.
The cyclone’s second blow rains down a low-lying, expanse of land filled with rivers and “almost all of them don’t have a dam” to contain flooding, said Salomao Bandeira, a scientist at the Universidade Eduardo Mondlane in Mozambique. Flooding in the country earlier this year hit regions where major rivers are controlled by dams, allowing some degree of control, Bandeira said, sparking fears this hit could lead to more destruction.
The expected deluge is already worrying health and disaster relief organizations in both Mozambique and Malawi, which have recently battled cases of cholera and other waterborne diseases. The UN and EU-led disaster alert system has already issued a red alert, predicting around 2.3 million people will be affected. Mozambique’s disaster agency has moved thousands of people to storm shelters ahead of time.
“More lives are being saved in Mozambique today” because of early preparedness, Bandeira said.
In a statement released on Saturday, the Malawi Red Cross said it had activated its early response teams in southern Malawi to prepare for the cyclone.
Earlier this week, Freddy’s longevity and baffling trajectories prompted the UN weather agency to set up a commission to determine whether it has broken the record for the longest-lasting tropical cyclone in recorded history after traversing more than 8,000 kilometers (5,000 miles) in the 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 measurement of a cyclone’s energy over time.
Freddy is also the third recorded storm to last more 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 temperature change over the ocean, “might have caused ocean temperatures and atmospheric circulations that made an event like this more likely,” Schreck added.
Any storm that can stay at such strong intensity for that long and make landfall twice is significant in terms of human impact and in terms of science,” said Kristen Corbosiero, a professor of atmospheric and environmental sciences at the University at Albany.
“Intense storms generally go through a series of eyewall replacement cycles and intensity fluctuations,” where the cyclone begins to develop a new eye, Corbosiero said. “But Freddy didn’t have these 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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