• Winston is a Category 4 storm on the five-step U.S. wind scale
  • Damaging winds, flooding forecast for Pacific island nation

Hurricane and gale warnings have been posted across the South Pacific nation of Fiji as Tropical Cyclone Winston bears down on the islands.

Winston was about 110 miles (180 kilometers) northeast of Lakeba, an island on the eastern side of Fiji, as of an advisory at 2 a.m. local time from the Fiji Meteorological Service. The storm’s winds had reached 144 miles per hour, making it a Category 4 system on the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale used by the U.S., according to the Navy and Air Force’s Joint Typhoon Warning Center in Hawaii. It’s forecast to reach 150 mph.

“Expect very destructive hurricane-force winds,” the Fiji meteorological service warned residents in the nation’s eastern islands. The forecast also calls for flooding from heavy rains and storm surge.

Winston initially passed west and south of Fiji before turning back toward the island earlier this week. It’s forecast to make landfall on the island of Fiji in about 24 hours, the Joint Typhoon Warning Center said.

“Destructive winds may begin several hours before the cyclone center passes overhead or nearby,” the Fiji agency said. Ships within 300 nautical miles of the storm were asked to report in every three hours and told to expect “phenomenal seas within 30 nautical miles of the center.”

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