Gaja to make landfall Thursday as intense, category 1 cyclone

Chennai: ‘Government has taken all precautionary measures and so people need not panic about cyclone Gaja,’ said Revenue Minister R B Udayakumar.

After discussing with the staff at Disaster Management and Mitigation Department, Chepauk, speaking to reporters, he said, ‘According to Met department cyclonic storm Gaja over Bay of Bengal is inching closer towards out coast at a speed of 5 Kmph and current 750 Km away from Chennai. It’s likely to cross Tamilnadu coast between Pamban and Cuddalore Thursday forenoon.’

‘In wake of this, Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami has had discussions with all department officials, senior ministers and has advised them. Following this, control room officials along the State coastline have been asked to go to their respective districts and undertake precautionary measures by today evening itself. With past experinces, 2,559 spots have been identified to be destruction-prone along the coast. A total of 410 officials from various departments have been split into zonal teams and they are currently monitoring situations in these areas. Primary rescuers to a count of 22,495 are ready for operation,’ he added.

The Minister also explained further about how the teams will be operating. ‘One team has been assigned for Chennai, Cuddalore and Ramanathapuram districts, two teams are looking after Chidambaram district and three teams are at Nagapattinam. In this way, a total of eight teams are working war-footing. In addition, police personnel and fire / rescuse services personnel are also ready for the task. Hospitals have been stacked up with enough oxygen cylinders and medicines. They have also been asked to keep their generators in a high place away from floods. People should avoid taking selfies during the landfall. Also, measures have been taken to remove all garbage accumulated on the roadside post landfall. We have also planned to conduct medical camps to treat communicable diseases in people. We have employed 1,618 earthmovers, 1,454 wood cutters, 1,032 boats, 1,441 generators, 1,663 water pumps, 1,125 swimmers, 657 snake catchers, 236 medical teams, 368 mobile medical teams,’ he said.

Finally, the Minister advised people to rely only on official updates from the government and not get frightened by fake propagandas. ‘They can get 24 / 7 official updates from our control rooms. People can make use of these updates and safeguard themselves from the cyclone,’ he ended.

A Met official, said, ‘When Gaja makes landfall, scattered heavy to very heavy with isolated extremely heavy rain or thundershower is likely to occur at most places over Tamilnadu and Puducherry Thursday. Also, scattered heavy with isolated very heavy rain is likely to occur at many places over Tamilnadu and Puducherry Friday. In the last 24 hours, Nagercoil recorded a maximum rainfall of 2 cm followed by Mylaudy which recorded 1 cm.’

‘Distant cautionary signal number two with section signal number five, three, two and four has been kept hoisted at Chennai, Cuddalore, Nagapattinam ports while distant cautionary signal number two has been hoisted at Ennore, Kattupally, Puducherry and Karaikal ports. Distant cautionary signal number two has been kept hoisted at Pamban and Toothukudi ports. Information has been forwarded to Colachel and Rameswaram ports,’ he added.

Gaja has changed its direction three times so far. Fishermen have not ventured into the sea for the last three days. As the movement speed of the cyclone got reduced from 7 Kmph to 5 Kmph today, the red alert given to Andhrapradesh was withdrawn. ISRO has informed that if Gaja makes a landfall near Sriharikota, the launch of GSLV Mark 3 will be postponed from the current 14 November schedule.

AccuWeather senior meteorologist Eric Leister, said, ‘Gaja is expected to strengthen into a severe cyclonic storm tomorrow and produce winds equal to a category one hurricane in the Atlantic Ocean bringing impacts ranging from flooding rainfall, mudslides and damaging winds. The cyclone is expected to make landfall in southern Tamilnadu Wednesday night or Thursday morning. A landfall between Velankanni and Chidambaram is expected at this time. However, locations from northern Sri Lanka and far southern Tamilnadu northward to Puducherry should monitor this tropical cyclone closely.’

‘The heaviest rainfall is forecast to fall from Pattukkottai to Chidambaram. Any shift in track could be a dramatic difference in impacts across the region, as damaging winds will be confined to an area near and north of Gaja’s track. While damaging winds are expected close to the storm’s track, downpours will expand much farther to the north. Occasional downpours will expand northward into southern Andhra Pradesh, bringing the threat for flooding to locations such as Cuddalore, Chennai and Nellore,’ he added.

Why Gaja’s movement not uniform?

Skymet forecast said, ‘Gaja is expected to intensify further into a severe cyclone as sea surface temperatures are favourable for intensification that is around 29 to 30 degree. It’s encountering moderate wind shear around 15 to 20 knots and will once again resume its movement in southwest direction after some time. Due to the subtropical ridge to the north, it is expected to cross Tamilnadu Coast between Cuddalore and Nagapattinam on the afternoon of 15 November.’

Gaja’s expected wind speed:

As Eric has predicted Gaja to turn out to a category one cyclone, we can expect wind swirl speed between 119 Kmph and 153 Kmph which is, indeed, devastating. To give you a clue about the potential of this cyclone, hurricane Florence which struck the Carolinas, a couple of months ago, also had category one speed during landfall. It dropped a maximum rainfall of 91.3 cm in Elizabethtown, North Carolina, while also killing 53.

NT Bureau