The chart below was issued by the Joint Typhoon Warning Center (JTWC) at 12:00Z which would be some 5 hours ago as I quickly post this on Friday afternoon lunch break. Category 5 cyclone Pam is charging through the Vanuatu islands on a south-southeast course.
The eye wall appears to have come some twenty miles from the capital Port Vila, with wind gusts of 325 km/h or 200mi/h! Maximum wave height, 45 feet.
Now why would one care about a storm racing through mostly empty ocean space half a world away? you might ask. Well for one thing, I have very sweet memories of Vanuatu where I spent a season some twenty years ago aboard the largest sailing ship in the world. For another, this cyclone is a monster. Look at the numbers on the chart (click to view sharper)! Frightening, humbling, awe inspiring.
I am extremely concerned about the impact it will have had on the islands. These are nice people, poor to an extreme for many, their dwellings by no means able to withstand the fury of a category 5 storm.
My heart goes to them. I will soon try to translate a chapter or two of my book to try and bring a cheerful note to this while explaining a little more about the area.