A massive cyclone, the equivalent of a high-end Category 4 hurricane with winds of 155mph, is about to make landfall on India. Cyclone Yani has forced more than 800,000 to flee for higher ground and shelter as the storm nears India’s east coast. Fani is the strongest tropical cyclone this early in the calendar year in the North Indian Ocean since the Bangladesh Cyclone of 1991. It is possible Fani could grow to a catastrophic equivalent of a Category 5 hurricane prior to landfall.
A meteorologist with the National Hurricane Center in Miami this morning remarked that “the eye clearing out as it approaches the coast reminds me of Harvey or Michael”, two powerful hurricanes that impacted the U.S. Gulf Coast in the last 2 hurricane seasons. The latest satellite view from India shows a clearing, well defined eye bearing down on India ahead of landfall.
Strong cyclones aren’t extremely common, but do occur from time to time on India’s east coast. Cyclone Fani will be the fourth storm to hit the country’s east coast in the last three decades. In 2017, Cyclone Ockhi killed more than 200 people and displaced hundreds.
HR Biswas, Director of the Meteorological Center in Orissa’s state capital, Bhubaneshwar, told reporters that at least 11 districts would be hit. India’s National Disaster Management Authority has also warned people along the rest of India’s east coast, especially fishermen, not to go out to sea because of “phenomenal” conditions. The agency said the “total destruction of thatched houses” was possible, as well as “extensive damage” to other structures as the storm makes landfall. The Indian Navy said it had sent seven warships to the area, and six planes and seven helicopters were on standby for relief operations.
Fani is due to impact the coast near the city of Puri early Friday morning local time and head up inland over the east coast, passing to the west of Calcutta by Friday night. By Saturday morning, Fani, in weaker form, is forecast to be over Bangladesh, another country not capable of dealing with these large scale natural disasters.