The Weather Channel takes a look at the eight cyclonic storms in and around India from the year 2019.Jan 3rd 2020 · 7 min read
File photo: Rough sea conditions along the east coast of India due to Cyclone Fani's movement towards Odisha(Credits: A. Prathap/BCCL Chennai)The year 2019 was one of the most active North Indian Ocean cyclone seasons on record. There were eight cyclonic storms in and around India—the highest number of cyclones in a single year since 1976. Of these eight storms, a record-breaking six intensified into ‘very severe’ cyclones, affecting the lives of millions of residents of coastal regions of India and its neighbouring countries.Residents clean their house in Pak Phanang district of Thailand after Pabuk passes by on January 5, 2019.(Credits: IANS)Pabuk originally formed as a tropical storm over the South China Sea on January 1, 2019, and after making landfall over Southern Thailand on January 4, it crossed into the Andaman Sea. Upon its entry into the Bay of Bengal, Pabuk became the earliest-forming cyclonic storm of the calendar year to enter the North Indian Ocean basin.Pabuk caused no damage on Indian shores, as its entry into the North Indian Ocean caused it to weaken into a ‘low’ on January 7. It dissipated the next day. However, Pabuk was the cause of ten deaths before it reached the Indian region. The storm killed eight people post-landfall in Thailand, and one each in Vietnam and Malaysia. The estimated damage across Thailand was close to 5 billion baht (11.9 hundred crore rupees).Fani - April 2019Rough sea conditions caused by Cyclone Fani over the Bay of Bengal overturn a fisherman's boat on the Visakhapatnam coast in Andhra Pradesh(Credits: N Kanaka/BCCL Visakhapatnam)Extremely Severe Cyclonic Storm Fani was the first severe cyclonic storm of last year, and also the strongest tropical cyclone to hit Odisha since 1999.Originating as a tropical depression west of Sumatra in the Indian Ocean on April 26, 2019, Fani was initially given the identifier BOB 02 by the India Meteorological Department (IMD). While vertical wind shear (difference in wind speed or direction over a relatively short distance in the atmosphere) initially restricted its growth, subsequent favourable conditions later led to its rapid intensification into an extremely severe cyclonic storm. Fani reached its peak intensity on May 2, 2019, as a high-end Category 4 major hurricane, with maximum sustained wind speeds of 209-251 kmph. A day later, Fani made landfall at Puri, Odisha, and weakened into a Category 1-equivalent ‘very severe’ cyclonic storm soon after. To prevent the storm from wreaking havoc, a total of 11 lakh people were evacuated from damage-prone areas—a feat that led to the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (ODRR) praising India for greatly minimising loss of life during the episode. In spite of the preparations, however, Fani caused at least 89 deaths: 72 in India and 17 in Bangladesh. A majority of the lives were lost in Odisha, with the state recording a death toll of 64. Heavy rains, collapsing trees and infrastructure, strong winds, and lightning strikes were what caused most of the deaths.The overall damage caused by Fani in India and Bangladesh combined is estimated to be around ₹58,000 crore ($8.1 billion). In terms of loss of human life, Fani was the fourth-most devastating natural disaster to hit India in 2019.Vayu - June 2019High waves lash the coast as Cyclone Vayu moves north-westwards, skirting the Saurashtra coast in Gujarat on June 13, 2019.(Credits: IANS)Vayu was the second Very Severe Cyclonic Storm of the 2019 North Indian Ocean cyclone season, and the first to form in the Arabian Sea. Its name, which means ‘wind’ in Hindi and Sanskrit, was given by India.Vayu was first noted by the IMD on June 9, 2019, as it originated from a low pressure area near the northern Maldives. Thereafter, it consolidated into a depression, tracked in the north-northwest direction over the eastern Arabian Sea, and intensified into a cyclonic storm on June 10. Following rapid intensification on June 11, Vayu reached its peak intensity as a high-end Very Severe Cyclonic Storm on June 12, with three-minute sustained winds of 145 kmph.While it was initially expected to make landfall over Gujarat, the storm abruptly turned westwards on June 13, moving away from the state coast. Nevertheless, it did have a minor impact on India’s western coastline, causing strong and gusty winds; generating high, ship-capsizing waves; and bringing about rainfall and thunderstorms over the coastal regions of Gujarat and Maharashtra.Furthermore, Vayu’s formation led to further delay in the monsoon's progression towards northern India, as the cyclone drew clouds and moisture over the Arabian Sea and away from the developing monsoon trough. Its anticlockwise rotation also exacerbated heat-wave conditions over Pakistan by sending hot winds from the Rajasthani desert in its direction.Vayu gradually weakened as it tracked towards the Arabian Peninsula and then back towards India. The system had degenerated into a well-marked low-pressure area on 17th June, just before crossing the Gujarat coast. Its remnants continued inland for another day, before dissipating on June 19.As of June 18, Vayu had caused eight deaths directly or indirectly, while injuring 12 more. It impacted approximately 66 lakh people in western and northwestern India, and forced the evacuation of 300,000 residents in coastal Gujarat.Hikaa - September 2019File photo: Cloudy conditions over Gujarat(Credits: BCCL Ahmedabad)Hikaa originally formed as a depression in the Arabian Sea in September 2019, gradually intensified into a cyclonic storm, and soon after reached its peak intensity as a very severe cyclonic storm, with 3-minute sustained wind speeds of 145 kmph.While it was expected to cause strong winds over the Gujarat coast—which it did—the system predictably moved in the opposite direction: westwards, towards Oman. Dry air intrusion led to its weakening, and Hikaa made landfall over Oman as a severe tropical cyclone. As it moved inland, it quickly weakened and later dissipated.Despite having stayed away from the Indian coast, Hikaa still managed to kill 11 Indian fishermen by sinking their boat off the Omani coast. As of October 17, 2019, six of them were confirmed dead, while five remain missing.Kyarr - October 2019Fishermen from IFB Raj Kiran being brought board ICGS Amartya after they were rescued off Karwar, Karnataka amid dangerous sea conditions caused by Kyarr.(Credits: TOI, BCCL, Mangaluru)Kyarr, the fifth cyclonic storm of the 2019 season, was also the first super cyclonic storm in the North Indian Ocean since Gonu in 2007. It was also the strongest tropical cyclone that has ever been recorded in the Arabian Sea, and the second-most intense tropical cyclone in North Indian Ocean history, behind the 1999 Odisha cyclone. Having developed from a low-pressure system near the Equator, it formed as a depression in the Arabian Sea on October 24, 2019. Owing to high sea surface temperatures, low shear, and a moist environment, Kyarr underwent rapid intensification, transforming from a very severe cyclonic storm on October 25 to a super cyclonic storm by October 27. At its peak intensity, the system boasted of 250 kmph sustained winds.Kyarr caused strong winds, heavy rainfall and flash flooding in Maharashtra, Goa and Karnataka. Besides the Indian coast, it also sent high tides towards the coasts of Pakistan and the United Arab Emirates, which led to flooding in these regions. In spite of its high intensity, however, Kyarr caused no human fatalities. After reaching peak intensity, the storm slowly began to weaken due to a combination of increasing wind shear, cooler waters, and dry air.Maha - October-November 2019Cyclone Maha brings squally winds to Lakshadweep on October 31, 2019(Credits: TOI, BCCL, Kochi)Maha formed as a well-marked low pressure area in the Arabian Sea, and strengthened into a depression on October 30, 2019. As the system entered a favourable environment, it developed into a Cyclonic Storm on November 1. Thereafter, Maha went through two days of fluctuation followed by two days of rapid intensification—as it moved parallel to the Indian coast, Maha grew into a Very Severe Cyclonic Storm on Nov 3, and into an Extremely Severe Cyclonic Storm on Nov 4.However, upwelling (a term for rising, colder ocean water displacing the warmer water on the surface) eventually took its toll on Maha, and the storm made landfall over Gujarat as a mere depression. As it weakened, it did cause strong winds and rainfall of different intensities over Gujarat, Maharashtra, and the Union Territories of Daman & Diu and Dadra & Nagar Haveli.Bulbul - October-November 2019Rains triggered by severe cyclonic storm 'Bulbul' lash Kolkata on Nov 9, 2019. (Credits: Kuntal Chakrabarty/IANS)On October 28, 2019, a tropical depression formed near Palau in the Western Pacific Ocean, and two days later, it was named Matmo by the Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA). After making landfall over Vietnam, it weakened as it crossed over the Indochinese Peninsula for the next several days, deteriorating into a low pressure system. However, on November 2, Matmo’s remnants reemerged in the Andaman Sea, and the system began to reorganise and redevelop into a depression, effectively giving birth to the cyclonic storm named Bulbul.Intensification continued as Bulbul tracked northwards in the Bay of Bengal, and it finally made landfall near Sagar Island in West Bengal as a Very Severe Cyclonic Storm on November 9, causing extremely heavy rainfall and winds of up to 135 km/h across southern West Bengal. However, the system rapidly weakened into a deep depression just a day after landfall.Nevertheless, Bulbul directly affected 35 lakh people in West Bengal, while killing 14. Close to 3,681,680 acres of crops were destroyed, with losses in the state reaching Rs 238 hundred crore rupees (US$3.35 billion).The state of Odisha also suffered agricultural damage, with 490,000 acres worth of crops destroyed state-wide. Bulbul also took the lives of two state residents in storm-related incidents.As for Bangladesh, Bulbul severely affected the country’s agricultural industry, damaging roughly 14 percent of the nation's total farmland. Estimates suggest the total crop loss suffered was worth 2.21 hundred crore rupees (US$31 million). Moreover, a total of 21 lakh people were evacuated from Bangladeshi coastal areas, but the cyclone nonetheless caused 25 deaths in the country.Pawan - December 2019Mumbai remained cloudy under the influence of the depression that later strengthened into cyclonic storm Pawan.(Credits: SL Shanth Kumar/BCCL, Mumbai)A depression that formed over the southwestern Arabian Sea, east of Somalia on December 2 strengthened into a cyclonic storm two days later, earning the name Pawan. As it gained strength, it continued north before taking a westward turn, away from India and towards Somalia.Pawan made landfall in the Puntland region of Somalia on December 6, causing heavy rains, mudslides, and flash flooding in the region. It degenerated into a well-marked low-pressure area inland on December 7, but not before killing at least six people.**For cyclone updates as well as weather & air quality updates on the go, download The Weather Channel App (on Android and iOS store). It's free!