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Tropical Cyclone Sandra Churns Well East of Australia

March 12, 2013; 4:42 AM

Tropical Cyclone Sandra was still a very strong storm, hovering at sea northwest of New Caledonia on Monday.

While far to the east of Australia, Sandra was helping to whip up rough surf and rip currents, which will be likely to last through at least Wednesday, along some Queensland beaches.

Sandra had begun to weaken after having peaked in strength on Sunday. However, its top winds were still near 100 mph on Monday, according to tropical cyclone forecasters in Fiji.

Over the weekend, Sandra had rapidly intensified; the storm's top sustained winds hit 125 mph with gusts nearing 155 mph.

Further weakening was forecast for Monday night into Tuesday, Eastern Time, as the storm was expected to make its nearest approach to the island nation of New Caledonia. The center of the storm will likely move just west of the main island Tuesday into Wednesday, passing within 100 miles of the western coastline.

This track would imply a threat for flooding rainfall and damaging winds in New Caledonia.

Parts of the island nation of Vanuatu, though well east of Sandra, were doused by at least 15 inches of rain between Thursday and Monday, thus indicating the storm's potential to unleash excessive rainfall.

Beyond Wednesday, further weakening is expected and Sandra will become extra tropical before combining with another low pressure to bring the threat for flooding rainfall to New Zealand late in the week.

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