Tropical Cyclone Tomas could develop into one of the most devastating hurricanes Fiji has ever faced, says the National Disaster Management Office.
A DISMAC statement just released a while ago says that Cyclone Tomas is expected to intensify into a Hurricane by this evening and possibly develop further into a Category 4 system just before reaching landfall.
Based on rather slow movement of TC Thomas to date and its new projected path, the cyclone is expected to start affecting Fiji from early on Monday 15 March.
However, associated strong winds and rain bands would arrive later tomorrow (Sunday).
The fact that the cyclone has been moving rather slowly, though giving ample time for warning and for people to prepare, is not so good news for Fiji as it gives the system good opportunity to develop into a more severe Hurricane (Category 4) as it approaches the country.
This could mean that Tomas could develop into a hurricane that has the same intensity as Cyclone Bebe which struck Fiji in 1972, Cyclone AMI which struck Fiji in 2003 and Cyclone Daman, which struck Fiji in 2007.
Members of the public are advised that a Tropical Cyclone ALERT is still in force for the Fiji Group.
As at 1pm today, Cyclone Tomas was about 545 km North-Northeast of Udu Point.
Close to its centre the cyclone is estimated to have average winds of 95km/hr with gusts to 140km/hr and is moving west at 15km/hr and is intensifying.
On this forecast track, the cyclone may bring damaging Gale Force winds over most parts of Fiji in the next 36 hours.
Flooding, including sea flooding of low lying coastal areas, is possible.
For mariners, strong wind warning is now in force with Rough to very Rough Seas and heavy swells.
The cyclone has been drifting slowly westwards overnight but is now expected to move in a more southwesterly direction towards Fiji.
It should curve more southerly as it approaches Fiji.
Based on projected path Thomas is expected to start affecting Fiji from late on Sunday.
However, associated strong winds and rain bands will arrive earlier tomorrow.
At this stage it appears that the Northern and Eastern Divisions may be more directly affected but this could change.