Andhra Pradesh struck by over 60 cyclones in four decades

More than one cyclone in the same season is not unusual for the state

By M Suchitra
Published: Monday 25 November 2013

Credit: flickr.comAndhra Pradesh is extremely vulnerable to cyclones, storm surges and floods. The state risks being battered by cyclones of moderate to severe intensity every two to three years. Since the 1975, the state had faced more than 60 cyclones. Some of them moderate and a few of them very severe (see box). In the past 40 years, there may not be a single year in which the state did not experience either a storm, a cyclone or heavy rains and floods.

The deadliest cyclone in the past 40 years was the one that struck Andhra's coast in November 1977, killing about 10,000 people. About 250,000 cattle heads perished, one million houses were damaged and crops on 1.35 million hectares (ha) were destroyed that year.

Major cyclones
  • November 1977 : Severe cyclonic storm—the most devastating in the past 40 years. Eight coastal districts affected. About 10,000 people killed. About 250,000 cattle heads perished; 1 million houses damaged and crops on 1.35 million hectares were damaged. Estimated loss: Rs 172 crore.
  • May 1979: Cyclonic storm with core of hurricane winds. Heavy rains and floods. As many as 748,000 lakh houses damaged. Estimated loss: Rs 242 crore.
  • October- November 1987: There were three cyclonic storms. First one in October, which was a severe storm but with no casualty. The second one, on 2-3 November was very severe. 10 districts affected. 119 people died; more than 100,000 houses and 960,000 ha of crops damaged; estimated loss: Rs 126.48 crore.
  • July 1989: Cyclone followed by heavy rains and floods. 22 districts affected. Death toll: 232; crops on about 600,000 ha lost; estimated loss: Rs 913.5 crore. It was followed by a cyclonic storm with no casualty.
  • May 1990: Severe cyclonic storm with core of hurricane winds. 14 districts affected. Death toll: 817; houses damaged: 1.4 million; crop loss: more than 500,000 ha; loss Rs 2,137.27 crore. It was followed by heavy rainfall in August in which 50 people died and the loss was assessed at Rs 179 crore.
  • November 1996: Severe cyclonic storm with core of hurricane winds. Four districts affected. Death toll: 1,077; houses damaged: 600,000; crop loss: 500,000 ha; loss Rs 6,129.25 crore. One more severe cyclone in December claimed 27 lives.
  • May 2010 : Cyclone Laila. 14 districts affected. Death toll: 22; houses damaged: 14,298; crop loss: 260,000 ha; loss Rs 1,603 crore.
  • November 2012: Severe cylone Nilam. Death toll: 30; crop loss: over 700,000 ha; loss: Rs 1,710 crore.

According to the State Disaster Mangement Department, about 44 per cent of the state is vulnerable to tropical storms and related disasters. Vulnerability to storm surges is not uniform along the coast of Andhra. The stretch between Nizampatnam in Guntur district and Machilipatnam in Krishna district is the most prone to storm surges. East and West Godavari districts, with vast stretches of paddy fields and irrigation, drainage canals always bear the brunt of cyclones accompanied by strong winds and pounding rains. In the aftermath of cyclones, these areas get flooded, leading to huge crop losses besides other damage.

Cyclones on the east coast originate in the Bay of Bengal, the Andaman Sea or the South China Sea, and usually reach the coastline of Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Odisha and West Bengal, which are the most vulnerable to cyclones. The cyclones develop both in the pre-monsoon (April to May) and post-monsoon seasons (October to December), but most of them tend to form in November. Severe cyclone Nilam, that made a landfall on November 2 last year near Mahabalipuram in Tamil Nadu, caused extensive damage in Andhra Pradesh (also see: 'Nilam effect: heavy crop loss in coastal Andhra districts' and 'Flooded by drains'.

However, pre-monsoon cyclone is not rare in the state. A severe cyclonic storm had hit the coast in 1990 in May, in which the death toll was 817 and the state’s loss was assessed at Rs 2,137 crore. In the cyclone of May 1979, more than 700 people lost lives. In 2010, seven people were killed in the coastal districts when Cyclone Laila arrived. It made a landfall near Baptala in Guntur district on May 20 before monsoon. Harvested paddy in Krishna, Guntur and West and East Godavari districts was damaged badly, leaving farmers distraught.

More than one cyclone in the same season is not unusual for Andhra Pradesh. In 1996, the state experienced a severe cyclonic storm in November, which left 1,077 people dead. The state had suffered a loss of Rs 6,129.25 crore. In December, one more severe cyclone hit the state. Death toll this time was 27.

Death toll minimised, not damage

Interestingly, the cyclone of 1977 was not a severe cyclonic storm like Phailin, Helen or the next one to arrive, Lehar, which are classified as very severe cyclonic storm. The reason for reduction in death toll is better disaster management and accurate weather forecasting. During Helen, the death toll was contained to six.


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