Cyclone Tauktae likely to intensify into ‘very severe storm’, to cross Gujarat coast on May 18
Cyclone Tauktae (pronounced as Tau’Te) is likely to intensify into a ‘very severe cyclonic storm’ in the next 12 to 15 hours with a wind speed of 120 to 130 kmph gusting to 145 kmph, according to the India Meteorological Department.
It is also expected to move north north-westwards and cross the Gujarat coast between Porbandar and Naliya as a very severe cyclonic storm around May 18 afternoon or evening.
Tauktae intensified very rapidly from a depression to a cyclone on Friday. “The cyclone track is very similar to the 1998 Gujarat cyclone except that storm had crossed Kandla. We noticed rapid intensification of Tauktae because of various favourable atmospheric and oceanic parameters,” said Sunitha Devi, in charge, cyclones at IMD.
Independent experts said rapid intensification of cyclones over Arabian Sea is linked to a marked rise in sea surface temperatures due to climate change. “The frequency and intensity of cyclones in the Arabian Sea have increased in recent years. This is because of the rapid warming that has made the relatively cooler Arabian Sea (compared to the Bay of Bengal) a warm pool region that can actively support cyclone formation. Climate projections indicate that Arabian Sea will continue warming under increased carbon emissions, resulting in more intense cyclones in the future,” said Roxy Mathew Koll, a climate scientist at the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology on Saturday.
There were two more cyclones in the past with similar tracks according to OP Sreejith, scientist and head, Climate Monitoring and Prediction Group (CMPG) at IMD Pune. One in 1933 between May 13 to 19 and another in 1975 between May 20 to 21. The 1998 Gujarat cyclone had killed over 4,000 people.
“Conditions are extremely favourable for its (Tauktae’s) rapid intensification. Ocean heat potential is above normal; sea surface temperatures are 1-2 degree C above normal… We should be prepared,” Sunitha Devi had said on Thursday when a low pressure area had formed over the Arabian Sea.
Agencies are facing multiple challenges of maintaining Covid-19 protocol, evacuation efforts during a pandemic and the risks from Tauktae itself. Last year, super cyclonic storm Amphan had formed in the pre-monsoon season and crossed the West Bengal coast over Sundarbans on May 20. It claimed over 90 lives and about 4,000 livestock mainly in West Bengal. According to WMO, Amphan is estimated to be the costliest tropical cyclone on record in the North Indian Ocean with economic losses of approximately US$14 billion.
“Cyclone Tauktae has arrived at an already critical time when Covid-19 cases are very high, and communities are struggling in most of our western coastal states. As the cyclone moves alongside the entire coastline, it will trigger very heavy rainfall in a number of places, till it finally hits land in Gujarat on May 18, as per current forecasts. While cyclones carry an image of strong winds, we are most worried about flash floods that it can trigger, creating devastation in places already battling Covid-19. Pre-emptive moves such as evacuations need to be carried out with great care, adhering to Covid-19 protocols such as social distancing and masking. We are ramping up our support to local communities to interpret the warnings in their own hyper-local contexts, and to take appropriate action. We are also pre-positioning our supply lines to extend relief support if required anywhere,” said Anshu Sharma, Co-founder, Sustainable Environment and Ecological Development Society.
Sea condition over east-central Arabian Sea will be high to very high (9-14 metres wave height/38-63 wind speed in kts) on May 15 and very high to phenomenal (14 metres wave height /64 wind speed in kts) on May 16 and over northeast Arabian Sea on May 17 and 18.
Sea conditions will be rough to very rough over Comorin area and along and off Kerala coast on May 15 and 16; very rough to high over east central Arabian Sea along and off Karnataka coast and Maharashtra – Goa coasts on both days. It is very likely to be very rough to high over northeast Arabian Sea along and off south Gujarat coast from May 17 morning and very high to phenomenal on May 18.
Tidal wave of about 2-3 m above astronomical tide is likely to inundate coastal areas of Morbi, Kutch, Devbhoomi Dwarka and Jamnagar districts and 1-2 meters along Porbandar, Junagarh, Gir Somnath, Amreli, Bhavnagar and 0.5 to 1m over the remaining coastal districts of Gujarat, IMD has warned.
There is likely to be heavy to very heavy rain over Kerala and Karnataka on May 16 and extremely heavy rain (over 20 cm) over coastal and ghat areas of Karnataka. Heavy to very heavy rain is also likely over Konkan, Goa, adjoining ghat areas on May 16 and 17.
Light to moderate rainfall at many places is likely to commence over coastal districts of Saurashtra from May 16 afternoon, at many places with heavy to very heavy rainfall at isolated places over Saurashtra and Kutch and extremely heavy rainfall at isolated places over Junagarh and Gir Somnath districts on May 17 with extremely heavy rainfall (over 20 cm) at isolated places (Porbandar, Devbhoomi Dwarka, Jamnagar and Kutch districts) on May 18. Parts of West Rajasthan are also likely to record light to moderate rainfall at many places with heavy to very heavy rainfall at isolated places on May 18 and 19.
Gale wind speed reaching 75–85 kmph gusting to 95 kmph is prevailing over east-central Arabian Sea and adjoining southeast Arabian Sea and Lakshadweep area. It is likely to increase over east-central Arabian Sea to 120-130 kmph gusting to 145 kmph from May 16 morning. Squally winds of 50-60 kmph gusting to 70 kmph along and off Karnataka, south Maharashtra and Goa coasts on May 15 and 16 and Gale winds speed reaching 60-70 kmph gusting to 80 kmph along & off Maharashtra –Goa coasts on May 16; squally wind speed reaching 40-50 kmph gusting to 60 kmph likely over northeast Arabian Sea and along and off south Gujarat; Daman and Diu coasts on May 17 morning which will gradually increase becoming gale winds reaching 150-160 kmph gusting to 175 kmph over northeast Arabian Sea from May 18 morning and along and off Saurashtra and Kutch coasts (Devbhoomi Dwarka and Porbandar) at 120-150 kmph gusting to 165 kmph over Kutch, Porbandar, Junagarh, Jamnagar districts of Gujarat on May 18 afternoon.
Over Devbhoomi Dwarka, Kutch, Porbandar, Junagarh, Gir Somnath and Jamnagar districts of Gujarat extensive damage is expected on May 18. There could be total destruction of thatched houses or extensive damage to kutcha houses; some damage to pucca houses; threat from flying objects; bending/ uprooting of power and communication poles; major damage to kutcha and pucca roads; flooding of escape routes; minor disruption of railways; overhead power lines and signalling systems; widespread damage to salt pans and standing crops etc. Similar damage is also expected in Amreli, Rajkot and Morbi districts.
IMD has said there should be total suspension of fishing operations in Gujarat and most states along the west coast; judicious regulation of rail and road traffic; people to remain indoors and movement in motorboats and small ships could be unsafe.