Natural Disasters

Cyclone Fani to turn extremely severe before landfall

Odisha government will evacuate people from districts that will be hit by the storm by May 2

By Priya Ranjan Sahu
Published: Wednesday 01 May 2019
Cyclonic storm. Image: Getty Images
Image: Getty Images Image: Getty Images

Fani, the severe cyclonic storm located over southeast and adjoining southwest Bay of Bengal, about 800 kilometres south of Puri, is likely to hit Odisha on May 3, 2019.

The system is expected to intensify further into an extremely severe cyclonic storm and cross the Odisha coast somewhere between Gopalpur and Chandbali, close to Puri, on May 3 with a sustained wind speed of 175-185 km per hour (kmph), the National Disaster Management Authority said on April 30, 2019. The wind speed may increase 205 kmph, it added.

Odisha government officials said Ganjam, Puri, Kendrapara, Jagatsinghpur, Cuttack, Jajpur, Khurda, Bhadrak and Balasore districts are likely to bear the cyclone’s brunt. The cyclone is also expected to affect Mayurbhanj district and adjoining parts of south Jharkhand and West Bengal.

The Odisha government has asked collectors of all concerned districts to remain on alert and has also cancelled leaves of government employees in these districts. The government has kept at least 879 multipurpose cyclone shelters, which can accommodate more than a million people during natural disasters like cyclones and floods, officials said.

“People in districts apprehended to be affected by the cyclone will be evacuated by May 2,” said Odisha special relief commissioner Bishnupada Sethi in Bhubaneswar.

It was likely that the cyclone would move in the northwest direction on May 1, 2019 and thereafter recurve towards the northeast before hitting Odisha coast, said Sarat Chandra Sahu, director of Centre for Environment and Climate (CEC) of SOA deemed university in Bhubaneswar.

Initially, it was being thought that the cyclone would graze the Odisha coast and veer off towards the north, but it is now coming straight at the state, he said. The maximum sustained wind speed may be between 180-200 kmph, he added.

The severity of the cyclonic storm could trigger storm surges as high as 5 to 7 metres along the coast causing the sea to sweep inland up to 10 km. This means steps are needed to evacuate people living in these areas close to the sea and shifted to cyclone shelters, said Sahu.

Pre-monsoon cyclones occur regularly but they did not have much impact, but extremely severe cyclonic storms like Fani are rare in May, he said. Before this, Odisha has only experienced such cyclones five times in May — in 1893, 1914, 1917, 1982 and 1989.

Sahu attributed the severity to climate change. Environmental conditions, including the sea temperature of 30 to 31 degrees Celsius, were favourable for intensifying the severe cyclonic storm into an extremely severe cyclonic storm during the next 12 hours, said Sahu, who the former director of IMD’s Bhubaneswar centre.

He added that the heat holding capacity of the sea increases during October which explains the high number of cyclones then.

The interior districts of Odisha, which will receive rainfall, are unlikely to be affected by the cyclone. Also, kalbaisakhi may occur in the state’s western districts, which are already under a torrid spell of heat wave. The heat may subside for a while because of the cyclonic storm, but it would rise again, said Sahu.

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