Severe Tropical Cyclone Oscar was one of the worst tropical cyclones to affect Fiji. The system was first noted as a shallow depression on February 23, while it was located to the north of Suva, Fiji. The system subsequently developed further as it moved westwards and was named as Tropical Cyclone Oscar during the next day. Over the next few days Oscar subsequently intensified as it moved westwards and gradually developed further and equivalent to a Category 3 Severe Tropical Cyclone, on the modern day Australian tropical cyclone intensity scale during February 27. The system subsequently turned and started to move south-eastwards towards Fiji.
|Category 4 severe tropical cyclone (Aus scale)|
|Category 3 tropical cyclone (SSHWS)|
|Formed||February 23, 1983|
|Dissipated||March 6, 1983|
|Highest winds||10-minute sustained: 185 km/h (115 mph) |
1-minute sustained: 185 km/h (115 mph)
|Lowest pressure||920 hPa (mbar); 27.17 inHg|
|Damage||$130 million (USD)|
|Part of the 1982–83 South Pacific cyclone season|
On February 23, the Fiji Meteorological Service (FMS) started to monitor a shallow depression, that had developed about 485 km (300 mi) to the north-northwest of Suva, Fiji. The system subsequently developed further as it moved westwards and was declared a tropical cyclone and named Oscar by the FMS during February 24. Over the next few days Oscar subsequently intensified as it moved westwards and gradually developed further. During February 27, Oscar became equivalent to a Category 3 Severe Tropical Cyclone, on the modern day Australian tropical cyclone intensity scale as it started to move towards the south-east and Fiji. The system subsequently continued to intensify during that day with the eye appearing on satellite imagery, before it came into the range of the Nadi International Airport's radar at around 03:30 UTC (15:30 FST) on February 28. The radar imagery showed that the system had an eye within a better defined and larger concentric eye and allowed the FMS to perform hourly fixes on the systems position. Later that day at 12:00 UTC (00:00 FST, March 1), the FMS reported that the system had peaked with estimated 10-minute sustained wind speeds of 185 km/h (115 mph) which made it a Category 4 Severe Tropical Cyclone, . The United States Joint Typhoon Warning Center subsequently reported six hours later that the system had peaked with 1-minute sustained wind speeds of 185 km/h (115 mph), which made it equivalent to a category 3 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson hurricane wind scale.
Early on March 1, as Oscar passed about 90 km (55 mi) to the west-southwest of Nadi, it was decided to secure Nadi's radar dish and the satellite antennae as storm-force winds outside gusted to 140 km/h (85 mph). During that day the system started to weaken while sustained winds of between 115–125 km/h (71–78 mph) were observed on Viti Levu, with a maximum wind gust of 185 km/h (115 mph) recorded at Nadi Airport. After wind gusts dropped and the pressure rose at Nadi, the radar was able to be brought back into operation at around 12:00 UTC (00:00 FST, March 2). The radar's poor image suggested that Oscar was now located to the south of Sigatoka, having accelerated from 7 to 15 km/h (4 to 9 mph) while the radar was shut down. Later that day the system wobbled towards the south-southeast, as it approached the island of Beqa, which spared the Fijian Capital of Suva from Oscar's worst effects. The system subsequently made landfall on the island of Kandavu at around 22:00 UTC (10:00 FST, March 2), before it left the Fijian group of islands during March 2. The system subsequently rapidly weakened before it was last noted during March 6, while it was located about 2,400 km (1,490 mi) to the south-east of Suva, Fiji.
Preparations and impactEdit
Severe Tropical Cyclone Oscar affected Fiji between February 28 and March 2, and was responsible for nine deaths and US$130 million in damages. As a result of the impact caused the name Oscar was retired, from the list of tropical cyclone names for the region. Ahead of a tropical cyclone alert for Fiji being issued during February 27, local radio bulletins made Fijians, aware that a tropical cyclone existed several days in advance. Gale, storm and hurricane warnings were subsequently issued for various parts of Fiji including Viti Levu, Kandavu and the Yasawa and Mamanutha island groups. Ahead of the system impacting the island nation, the Nadi International Airport was closed, with both internal and external flights cancelled. Schools around the nation were also closed with some being used as evacuation centres for the hundreds of Fijians who evacuated. During February 28, the system started to affect Fiji with strong winds and light rain, before the wind and rain gradually became stronger during March 1, with storm and hurricane-force winds recorded over the island nation.
Damage was mostly in the form of severe flooding from storm tides and torrential rains. Hardest hit areas included the Mamanutha Group, western and southwestern Viti Levu, and Yanutha, Vatulele, Kandevu and Mbengga Islands. In some areas storm surges reached 9 to 12 feet. However, the highest measured storm surge value was 5.93 m (19.46 ft) at Rarawai Mill. Flooding due to torrential rains was particularly severe in western and southwestern Viti Levu. At Nadi Market flood levels were about 12 ft above the asphalt pavement. In the Singatoka Valley, which supplies most of Fiji's vegetables, most crops were destroyed as flooding reached levels beyond living memory of most people.
On March 1, after the system had moved through the archipelago, the Fijian Government immediately declared a national disaster and asked for assistance from the international community. Efforts to clean up certain towns including Nadi, Lautoka, Sigatoka and Suva started almost immediately after Oscar had moved away, with the Sigatoka Town council initiating a spraying campaign to destroy mosquitoes and counter an outbreak of disease.
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