♦ Sustained winds at 111 kmph
♦ Avoid travel, stock up on essentials
♦ Low-lying areas could get flooded
♦ City could experience
For a little more than a week, Adam Sobel, a scientist at Columbia University who studies extreme weather and climate change, has been putting out alerts on Twitter, tracking various models, about the cyclone formations over
Sobel is well-versed with the city and the risks a cyclone poses; he and his colleagues have even authored a paper looking at Mumbai’s cyclone preparedness, which, according to author Amitav Ghosh, explores how “the city remains completely unprepared for such a disaster.” In an email interview with Mirror, the author of Storm Surge:
How badly do you think the cyclone will hit Mumbai?
The IMD is now issuing track and intensity forecasts for this storm. They are the official forecast agency and their predictions are state of the art; I am not making my own forecast, only providing some interpretation. The latest IMD track takes the storm right over Mumbai on Wednesday as a Severe Cyclonic Storm (SCS) with 60 knot (111kmph) maximum sustained winds. In the US system, this would be a strong Tropical Storm, not quite a Hurricane (but close).
The track forecast is bad for Mumbai, but the intensity forecast is good relative to what it was 12 hours ago, when some models were predicting that it could become much more powerful. Those models have backed off now. So the chances of a worst case scenario, with, for example, a very extreme storm surge, is now reduced quite a bit. However, an SCS with 60 kt (111 kmph) winds can still be dangerous, so people should still be prepared for both high winds and flooding. And there is still time for things to change, so everyone in the area should monitor the forecast closely.
What makes Mumbai so vulnerable to such weather conditions?
And how has the city failed to prepare for such situations?
The city is completely exposed to the sea, with many flood-prone low-lying areas. Some of the most vulnerable areas are informal settlements such as Dharavi, which is also heavily affected by the pandemic now. But also many upscale areas like Marine Drive are very exposed.
Mumbai has not been affected by cyclones in its modern history. The city has experienced severe
What precautions do you advise the city should be undertaking right now?
People should be prepared to avoid travel; stock up on necessary supplies; there could be loss of power, etc. Please follow the advice of local leaders and emergency managers. I hope largescale evacuation will not be necessary, but in the case of flooding, it might be necessary to get out of the lowest floors of some buildings in low-lying areas.
Why is there a lag in the forecast by IMD informing us of the intensity of the storm?
There is not a “lag”, but formal cyclone forecasts and warnings don’t begin until the storm has formed, which it only did (reaching Depression stage) in the last 12 hours or so. This is true not just of IMD but most forecast agencies around the world. It poses problems when a storm forms close to land so that there is a short time between formation and landfall.