Tropical Cyclone Freddy has battered the southeast African coast, possibly setting the record for the longest-lived tropical cyclone in history.
Freddy developed off the coast of southern Indonesia on Feb. 6 and then traveled across the entire southern Indian Ocean to Africa – a path no other tropical cyclones observed in this part of the world have taken in the past 20 years, according to NOAA. At one point during the long journey across the ocean, Freddy had winds equivalent to a Category 5 hurricane.
In Africa, Freddy made landfall three times. Its first landfall occurred during the late morning hours of Feb. 21 (U.S. time) on the eastern coast of Madagascar. The second landfall occurred on the morning of Feb. 24 (U.S. time) in Mozambique. After moving away from Mozambique, Freddy returned to the country for its third and final landfall Saturday.
A path of death and destruction
Throughout its lifetime, the cyclone brought torrential rains and caused floods and landslides in Mozambique, Madagascar and other nearby African countries.
Survivors in Mozambique and neighboring Malawi were still being rescued Wednesday, according to Reuters. As of Wednesday afternoon, Reuters reports that the death toll in those two nations plus Madagascar is estimated to be more than 270.
Freddy traveled at least 5,000 miles after it was classified as a tropical cyclone on Feb. 6. With a lifetime of 34 days, Freddy may have broken the record for the longest-lived tropical cyclone in history, according to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).
The current titleholder is Hurricane/Typhoon John, a tropical cyclone that swept through the Pacific Ocean during the summer of 1994. John lasted for 31 days.
The WMO said the organization is currently assembling a committee of scientists to determine whether Freddy will indeed outrank John as the longest-lasting tropical cyclone on record.
"One question that we will be addressing is the fact that throughout its long lifetime, the storm has periodically weakened below tropical storm status," said professor Randall Cerveny, WMO Weather and Climate Extremes rapporteur.
"We will obviously need to address if that is a concern in our evaluation," he added.
The power and intensity of Cyclone Freddy
While the length of Freddy’s lifetime is being considered, the tropical cyclone has been confirmed as ranking second in all-time Accumulated Cyclone Energy (ACE), according to meteorologist Philip Klotzbach, who specializes in hurricane forecasting. ACE is a metric that indicates the amount of energy released by a tropical cyclone during its lifetime, according to NOAA.
The WMO noted that the ACE of Freddy is the equivalent of an average full hurricane season in the North Atlantic Ocean.