The next 12 to 15 hours might see Cyclone Tauktae (pronounced Tau’te) become a “very severe cyclonic storm” with wind speeds reaching up to 145 km/hr, officials at the India Meteorological Department said on Saturday. They also mapped its likely trajectory and estimated it to move north-northwestwards and cross the Gujarat coast between Porbandar and Naliya around afternoon or evening of May 18.
Sunitha Devi, who studies cyclones at IMD, said she spotted some similarities between the current cyclone and the one that hit Gujarat in 1998. Tauktae was a depression until Friday, when it intensified very rapidly into a cyclone — all due to various favourable atmospheric and oceanic conditions, said Devi.
Independent experts have noticed cyclones intensifying over the Arabian Sea more frequently in recent years and say this is due to global warming pushing sea surface temperatures up. “Rapid warming has made the relatively cooler Arabian Sea (compared to the Bay of Bengal) a warm pool region that can actively support cyclone formation,” said Roxy Mathew Koll, a climate scientist at the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology. “Climate projections indicate that the Arabian Sea will continue to warm under increased carbon emissions, resulting in more intense cyclones in the future.”
OP Sreejith, scientist and head, Climate Monitoring and Prediction Group at IMD Pune, said there were two more cyclones in the past with similar tracks. One blew from May 13 to 19 in 1933, the other between May 20 and 21 in 1975. The memory of Cyclone Amphan wreaking havoc in West Bengal last year is only too recent. So, Tauktae has worried the agencies, more so because there is already a pandemic raging, which could likely complicate evacuation and relief efforts.
Before making landfall on May 18, the cyclone will move alongside the coastline, triggering very heavy rain at several places, experts indicated. “We are most worried about flash floods that it can trigger, creating devastation in places that are already battling Covid. Pre-emptive measures such as evacuations need to be adopted with great care, adhering to Covid protocols,” said Anshu Sharma, co-founder, Sustainable Environment and Ecological Development Society.
He added that the authorities are bracing for impact. “We are ramping up support to local communities to interpret the warnings in their own hyperlocal contexts, and to take appropriate action. We are also pre-positioning our supply lines to extend relief support if required anywhere,” said Sharma.
The sea will be choppy from May 15 until May 18 with phenomenal waves (up to 14 metres high) and wind speeds (up to 64 knots) along the coast of Kerala, Maharashtra, Goa, Karnataka, and Gujarat, with Gujarat likely to be the worst-hit. Met has warned that tidal waves of up to 3-metre height are likely to inundate coastal areas of Morbi, Kutch, Devbhoomi Dwarka, Jamnagar, Porbandar, Junagadh, Gir Somnath, Amreli, Bhavnagar and other coastal districts of Gujarat.
Then there is rain to contend with. Kerala and Karnataka are likely to receive very heavy rain on May 16, with coastal and ghat areas of Karnataka getting extremely heavy rain (over 20 cm). Konkan, Goa and adjoining ghat areas might also get very heavy rain on May 16 and 17.
Light to moderate rain is likely to occur in coastal districts of Saurashtra from May 16 afternoon, while heavy to very heavy rain might occur at isolated places in Junagadh and Gir Somnath districts on May 17. Over 20 cm rainfall might also occur at isolated places in Porbandar, Devbhoomi Dwarka, Jamnagar and Kutch districts on May 18. Parts of West Rajasthan are also likely to receive light to heavy rain on May 18 and 19.
Already, gale winds with speeds up to 95 km/hr are blowing over east-central Arabian Sea and adjoining southeast Arabian Sea and Lakshadweep areas. From May 16 morning, this might go up to 145 km/hr.
Squalls of up to 70 km/hr are hitting Karnataka, south Maharashtra, and Goa coasts; on May 16, Maharashtra and Goa coasts will see squalls of up to 80 km/hr.
Squalls with speeds of up to 60 km/hr are likely over south Gujarat, Daman and Diu coasts on May 17, which, by May 18, will turn into gale winds of up to 175 km/hr. Off the Saurashtra and Kutch coasts (Devbhoomi Dwarka and Porbandar), gale winds of up to 165 km/hr will blow on May 18 morning, hitting Junagadh and Jamnagar districts too. Extensive damage is expected in these areas and in Amreli, Rajkot and Morbi districts.
The Met department wants a total suspension of fishing operations in Gujarat and other states on the west coast. It has also asked for regulation of rail and road traffic and advised people to stay indoors.
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