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All you need to know about cyclones

india Updated: Oct 27, 2016 12:42 IST
cyclones,tropical storms
This NASA satellite image from Wednesday shows Tropical Cyclone Kyant in the Bay of Bengal. (AFP)

The name of cyclone Kyant -- which will make landfall in south Andhra in the next 24 hours -- is the word for ‘crocodile’ in the Mon language spoken in parts of Myanmar and Thailand.

Another strikingly named storm ‘HudHud’ had in October 2014 slammed the coast at Visakhapatnam, killing 49 people and affecting about 21 lakh families in the Andhra Pradesh. Here’s all you need to know about cyclones.

How are cyclones named? 

During World War II, tropical cyclones were informally given women’s names by US Army Air Corp and Navy meteorologists (after their girlfriends or wives) who were monitoring and forecasting tropical cyclones over the Pacific.

• From 1950 to 1952, tropical cyclones of the North Atlantic Ocean were identified by the phonetic alphabet (Able-Baker-Charlie-etc.), but in 1953 the US Weather Bureau switched to women’s names. In 1979, the World Meteorological Organization and the US National Weather Service (NWS) switched to a list of names that also included men’s names.

• The Northeast Pacific basin tropical cyclones were named using women’s names starting in 1959 for storms near Hawaii and in 1960 for the remainder of the Northeast Pacific basin. In 1978, both men’s and women’s names were utilised.

• The Northwest Pacific basin tropical cyclones were given women’s names officially starting in 1945 and men’s names were also included beginning in 1979.

• The Southwest Indian Ocean tropical cyclones were first named during the 1960/1961 season.

• The Australian and South Pacific region (east of 90E, south of the equator) started giving women’s names to the storms in 1964 and both men’s and women’s names in 1974/1975.

• The North Indian Ocean region tropical cyclones are being named since October 2004.

Names reused every six years

• Atlantic and Pacific storm names are reused every six years, but are retired “if a storm is so deadly or costly that the future use of the name would be insensitive or confusing,” according to forecasters at the US National Hurricane Center in Miami.

• Hurricane Sandy was the 77th name to be retired from the Atlantic list since 1954. It will be replaced with “Sara” beginning in 2018, when the list from 2012 is repeated. Hurricane Sandy was the deadliest and most destructive hurricane of the 2012 Atlantic hurricane season that hit the US last year.

Cyclone categories

Category 1: Wind and gales of 90-125 kph, negligible house damage, some damage to trees and crops.

Category 2: Destructive winds of 125-164 kph. Minor house damage, significant damage to trees, crops and caravans, risk of power failure.

Category 3: Very destructive winds of 165-224 kph. Some roof and structural damage, some caravans destroyed, power failure likely.

Category 4: Very destructive winds of 225-279 kph. Significant roofing loss and structural damage, caravans destroyed, blown away, widespread power failures.

Category 5: Very destructive winds gusts of more than 280 kph. Extremely dangerous with widespread destruction.

Cyclone season

The country’s cyclone season runs from April to December, with severe storms often causing dozens of deaths, evacuations of tens of thousands of people from low-lying villages and wide damage to crops and property.

Previous major cyclones in India


Phailin was the second-strongest tropical cyclone ever to make landfall in India, behind only the 1999 Odisha cyclone.

The system started off on October 4, 2013 within the Gulf of Thailand, to the west of Phnom Penh in Cambodia. Over the next few days, it moved westwards and emerged into the Andaman Sea.

During the next day Phailin intensified rapidly and became a very severe cyclonic storm on October 10, equivalent to a category 1.

On October 11, the system became equivalent to a category 5 hurricane before it started to weaken during the next day as it approached Odisha. It made landfall later that day, near Gopalpur in Odisha coast at around 9.30 PM and subsequently weakened.


The cyclone prompted India’s biggest evacuation in 23 years with more than 550,000 people moved up from the coastline in Odisha and Andhra Pradesh to safer places. Most of the evacuated people were sheltered in 500 specially-built cyclone camps in the two states.


Massive evacuation kept the toll down. Around thirty people died in the cyclone


The 1999 Odisha cyclone, also known as Cyclone 05B, and Paradip cyclone, was the strongest tropical cyclone ever recorded in the North Indian Ocean.

It was also the deadliest tropical cyclone in the Indian Ocean since the 1991 Bangladesh cyclone, and deadliest Indian storm since 1971.

The Category Five storm made landfall just weeks after a category 4 storm hit the same general area. It was a tropical depression formed over the Malay Peninsula on October 25.

It moved to the northwest and became a tropical storm on October 26. It continued to strengthen into a cyclone on October 27. On October 28, it became a severe cyclone with a peak of 160 mph (260 km/h) winds.

It hit India the next day as a 155 mph (250 km/h) cyclone.


It caused the deaths of about 10,000 people, and extreme damage in its path of destruction.