Tropical cyclone Laila, set to slam India’s east coast in the wee hours of Thursday, will not hold back the annual monsoon, a senior weather official told the Hindustan Times on Wednesday.
“The monsoon latched on to Laila, but will break off. There is no significant risk to monsoon,” D.S. Pai, director of long-range forecasts at India Meteorological Department, told HT from Pune.
Pai said the “decoupling” would pit Laila against the monsoon, both competing for sea moisture, but this would be “temporary”.
The June-September rains are critical for summer crops, which account for over half of India’s annual food output.
Laila was upgraded to a “hurricane-level” storm, which was less than 150 km off Chennai over the Bay of Bengal on Wednesday noon, threatening lives and homes in three states, two key commercial ports and oil operations.
The Bay of Bengal holds India’s biggest natural gas field, operated by Reliance Industries Ltd., and also Cairn India Ltd.’s offshore rigs. Refiners, such as Hindustan Petroleum Corporation, operate plants along the coast, including a major one in Visakhapatnam.
Deadly tropical storms frequently take off from the Bay of Bengal during summer, often leaving thousands of survivors with nothing. In April, a Nor’wester — another Bay of Bengal storm system — slammed Bihar and Bengal, killing over 100. Last year's cyclone Aila was West Bengal’s worst disaster in decades, killing 128.