On April 1, the Australian Bureau of Meteorology reported that a tropical low had developed east of Papua New Guinea. As the system developed, it began tracking towards the Solomon Islands. Passing approximately 135km to the southeast of Honiara, the cyclone gained ferocity and its track suggested it would make landfall somewhere along the west coast of Espiritu Santo.
On April 4, it was reclassified as a Category 3 cyclone and soon developed into a Category 4 severe tropical cyclone.
On April 6, at around 11:00am local time, Harold made landfall on the west coast of Santo, with 10-minute sustained winds of 215km/h (130mph). Harold continued to the southeast almost following the Segond Channel and the stronger northern eyewall of the cyclone passed over Luganville near 1pm local time.
While the storm weakened for a few hours, wind shear and very warm sea surface temperatures caused the cyclone to re-intensify just before passing over the south end of Pentecost Island in the early evening. When it hit the island, it was packing winds of up to 270km/h (168mph) – the strongest recorded along Harold’s destructive path across the northern islands.
While two category 3 cyclones have hit Espiritu Santo and Pentecost Islands in the past, Harold was the first Category 4 or 5 cyclone on record to hit the islands.