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Cyclone Leon-Eline at landfall in Mozambique
|Formed||February 3, 2000|
|Dissipated||February 23, 2000|
|Highest winds||10-minute sustained:
185 km/h (115 mph)
215 km/h (130 mph)
|Lowest pressure||928 mbar (hPa); 27.4 inHg|
|Fatalities||Up to 1,000 direct|
|Areas affected||Madagascar, Mozambique, South Africa, Zimbabwe|
|Part of the 1999-00 Australian region, and the South-West Indian Ocean cyclone seasons|
Cyclone Leon–Eline was a long-lived Indian Ocean tropical cyclone which traversed almost the entire Indian ocean and made devastating strikes on Madagascar and Mozambique, and had less serious effects in South Africa and Zimbabwe where it eventually died out.
The storm was first identified as a tropical low south of Java at February 3 by Perth Tropical Cyclone Warning Center (PTCWC) at Australia. The system was located about 325 nm from Christmas Island, moving west-southwest and slowly gaining strength. The first warning by Joint Typhoon Warning Center for Tropical Cyclone 11S was issued next day, and on same day it was named as Tropical Cyclone Leon by Perth TCWC. The cyclone continued its track to southwest whilst intensifying. It achieved hurricane strength on February 5, with estimated sustained winds of 80 mph and minimum central pressure of 960 mbar. However by February 7 Leon had begun to weaken due to increasing wind shear and it was downgraded to tropical storm. Leon was moving now fairly straightly towards west. It crossed 90°E longitude at February 8 and became Southwest Indian Ocean cyclone. As it had left Perth TCWC's area of responsibility, it was renamed as Eline by Mauritius Meteorological Service. It was located about 500 nm west-southwest from Cocos Islands, with sustained winds of 40 knots.
Over the next four days, Eline stayed at tropical storm strength with some fluctuations of intensity as it crossed the vast expanses of Indian Ocean. However by February 12 conditions had become more favourable for development and Eline began to gain strength again. On February 14 the system had turned course to west-southwest and regained cyclone strength with maximum sustained winds of about 70 knots. Satellite pictures revealed an eye of about 12 nm diameter. On February 14 Eline passed about 125 nm north of Mauritius and next day about 140 nm north of La Réunion, dumping heavy rainfalls on those islands. It weakened briefly again but regained hurricane strength on February 16 and acquired more westerly track. The storm was now clearly threatening the east coast of Madagascar.
At this point, Eline underwent significant intensification. 1-minute average windspeed was estimated as at least 90 knots JTWC and RSMC La Réunion, but it may have been as high as 120 knots, equivalent to strong Category 3 hurricane. Cyclone Eline made landfall at Madagascar on February 17, about 30 nm north of Mahanoro. The storm weakened considerably over high, mountainous terrain of central Madagascar, but it retained its tropical characteristics, despite being downgraded to tropical depression by the time it emerged again at the western coast of the island on February 19. It began to slowly reintensify and regained tropical storm strength later that day. On 21st, it once again reached hurricane strength over Mozambique Channel. At this point it was about 300 nm east-southeast of Beira, moving slowly northeast. A well-defined 32 nm eye was apparent on satellite pictures at that time as system began yet another cycle of rapid intensification and storm reached its peak intensity. On morning of February 22, Intense Tropical Cyclone Eline made landfall about 40 nm south of Beira with estimated maximum sustained winds of 115 knots, or 135 mph, equivalent to a Category 4 cyclone. Eline began to weaken and was downgraded to category 2 by afternoon. By the next day, Eline was downgraded to tropical storm and moved north west to Zimbabwe where it dissipated on February 23, 2000. Cyclone Leon–Eline had been active over two and a half weeks, crossed almost the entire Indian Ocean during that time and made three destructive landfalls.
Impact and records
Eline caused considerable destruction on Madagascar. Over 60,000 people were affected with at least 10,000 being left homeless. At least 64 people were listed as dead. Mahanoro was reported to have suffered 80% destruction. Effects were made worse by Moderate Tropical Storm Gloria which crossed the island in a similar fashion just a couple of weeks later.
Damage to Mozambique was even worse, though difficult to estimate. When the storm struck, the country was already suffering from disastrous flooding and heavy rainfall, some of which were associated with earlier Cyclone Connie. At least 300,000 people were already displaced by this disaster when Eline struck in middle of it, seriously disrupting already stressed relief effort. For example, Eline sank four ships on Beira Harbour, delaying arrival of emergency food shipments. Up to 150 people were reported dead because of the storm, but total casualties from flooding, some of it caused by Eline, may have reached 1000. There was some limited damage to bridges and dams in Zimbabwe.
In South Africa, Cyclone Eline caused minimum damage to buildings but torrential rains flooded parts of the north eastern coast. Only a little over a month later, another intense long-lived storm, Very Intense Tropical Cyclone Hudah, brought additional destruction over northern Madagascar and the Mozambique coast, deepening the crisis even more.