(KMSP) - The island nation typically home to white sandy beaches, clear ocean water, and sunny hot afternoons is likely about to change forever. The Fiji Meteorological society is forecasting Cyclone Winston to continue strengthening to a category 5 as it makes landfall on the nation’s biggest and most populated island sometime early Saturday, Minnesota time. Remember that a cyclone is just like a hurricane, but it is called something different because it’s location; southern hemisphere hurricanes are called cyclones. Fiji is made up of hundreds of islands and is home to more than 800,000 people. A nation that relies on at least that many tourists every year to spend tens of millions of dollars, this could have a long lasting impact on the small country.
Winds could top 175 mph on the big island with storm surge of more than 30 feet. The US Government has issued a travel warning for the island nation and has advised US Citizens in the country of Fiji to use any and all means necessary to stay safe during the storm. This will be one of the strongest cyclones to ever hit the island nation and the strongest since 1993 when cyclone Kina passed through. Damages to the country topped 200 million dollars, roughly 7% of its gross domestic product. That would be like the US having a trillion dollar disaster. Current estimates predict this storm could cause more than a billion dollars in damage, claim dozens of lives, and leave the island decimated for years.