People living along a stretch of India’s east coast are preparing for the arrival of a major tropical cyclone on Thursday.
Tropical Cyclone Lehar has already passed over the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. Port Blair, the capital of the Andamans, recorded 237mm of rain in less than 48 hours.
Lehar has since moved to the east of the islands and is making slow progress towards the northwest.
It is expected to gain strength as it moves over the warm waters of the Bay of Bengal in the coming days. A lack of wind shear, a change of direction with height, will aid its development.
As Lehar approaches India’s Eastern Ghats, it is expected to be the equivalent of a category 2 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson scale (5 being the highest).
Landfall will occur close to Machilipatnam, in the state of Andhra Pradesh, at 13GMT on Thursday. At this time sustained winds are predicted to be 175 kph with gusts of 215 kph.
Winds of this strength are sufficient to cause a substantial risk of injury or death due to flying or falling debris.
The deadliest element of many of these storms is the surge – the elevated water level produced by the wind. In this case, the latest forecasts suggest a surge of just 0.6 metres. But with around 700,000 people living within 5 metres of sea level within the affected area, the authorities are leaving nothing to chance.
The commissioner for Andhra Pradesh disaster management department said that an evacuation would begin on Tuesday. Warnings and advisories have already been issued to fishermen operating off the coasts of Andhra Pradesh and south Odisha.
Lehar will strike the region just one week after a much weaker tropical cyclone, Helen, hit the same area, and barely six weeks after Severe Tropical Cyclone Phailin caused widespread damage and destruction, killing 45 people.