Cyclone Yaas triggers warnings of adverse weather, natural disastersPeople advised to stay safe as the cyclone’s impacts are felt across the country.
Cyclone Yaas, which has been wreaking havoc in Indian coastal states, has left various parts of Nepal drenched in rain and overcast conditions, with meteorologists predicting more adverse weather conditions for the next few days.
The powerful cyclone has battered India’s east coast area, mainly two states West Bengal and neighbouring Odisha, leaving behind a trail of destruction. According to Indian media reports, more than 300,000 houses were damaged and nearly 10 million people were affected after Cyclone Yaas made landfall in Odisha at 9.30 am on Wednesday.
At least four people have been reportedly killed as several coastal towns of north Odisha and neighbouring West Bengal were hit hard. Hundreds of low lying villages were left inundated after sea waters along the Bengal coast and rivers started swelling and breached embankments in many locations.
Hundreds of kilometres away from the Indian east coastline, impacts of the ‘very severe’ cyclonic storm were felt in different parts of Nepal too.
The country has experienced rainfall, which is likely to continue until at least Saturday, triggering a warning of potential disaster incidents like a gusty windstorm, rainfall coupled with thunderbolts.
The cyclone-induced rains could cause a double whammy effect on Nepal, which is already reeling under the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“The country is already dealing with the Covid-19 outbreak. Any further impacts due to the harsh weather conditions can result in a multi-hazard situation for us,” said Liladhar Adhikari, spokesperson for National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Authority, the central government body overseeing disaster management. “When the country is already losing lives to Covid-19, the forecast of severe weather conditions with the potential of disasters have added a challenge.”
According to the special bulletin and the three-day weather forecast of the Meteorological Forecasting Division, under the Department of Hydrology and Meteorology, effects of the cyclone will be felt in most parts of the country in the form of light to moderate rainfall with thunderstrikes and windstorms.
“The main impact of the cyclone is that the mountainous region will receive light to moderate snowfall whereas the rest of the country will see light to moderate rainfall and generally cloudy to cloudy conditions,” said Min Kumar Aryal, a meteorologist with the Division. “In Tarai region, mainly in Province 1, Province 2, Bagmati Province and Lumbini Provine, some places will receive heavy rainfall and strong windstorms. Places between Biratnagar in the east to Lumbini in the west along the Chure range are areas which are likely to receive heavy rainfall.”
Authorities in Nepal have issued a weather advisory to the general public asking them to remain safe as the weather could worsen for the next couple of days and the hostile weather conditions could lead to natural disasters like floods and landslides.
“If moderate rainfall continues for more than 24 hours, it could increase the threat of disaster,” said Aryal. “So far, it has not rained heavily. If heavy rainfall occurs in the mid-hills and Tarai districts, then this could cause flooding in the Tarai.”
The amount of rainfall is measured based on the total accumulated rainfall during 24 hours. Rainfall less than 10 mm within 24 hours is considered light rain, whereas 10 mm or more but less than 50 mm is called moderate rain. Precipitation between 50-100 mm is heavy rain and can be dangerous, according to meteorologists.
The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Authority also issued a notice warning the general public to remain safe and instructing the authorities concerned to remain on standby for rescue operations.
“It looks like the country is likely to be impacted by the cyclone. Those engaged in mountaineering need to be careful, and some might even have to cancel their expeditions. Based on the weather reports, we have advised them to stay alert and even postpone their expeditions if the weather worsens,” said Adhikari. “Besides, we have asked all the authorities concerned to remain prepared as the weather office has warned that the country could receive uneven rainfall and there are chances of inundation and flooding mainly in the Tarai region.”
The country’s weather had faced disturbances due to the cyclone in the Bay of Bengal from Tuesday. Since then, various parts of the country, including the Kathmandu Valley, have received light to moderate drizzle and remained shrouded in overcast skies.
“Except for the far-western region, the rest of the country has seen light to moderate rainfall or overcast conditions,” said Aryal, the meteorologist.
Following the wet weather, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Authority has instructed district authorities to stay alert, assess the situation on the ground and remain prepared for potential disasters.
“District Administration Offices as well as the District Disaster Management Committees have been asked to work on early-preparedness and remain on high alert. Besides, these agencies have been advised to deliver weather information to the public in their local languages through the media so that they are safe and prepared,” said Adhikari. “As there is already Covid-19 pandemic situation, should the search and rescue situation arise, they will be carried out following Covid-19 safety protocols.”
Cyclones in the Bay of Bengal are common during this time of the year.
Just last week, India and then subsequently Nepal had felt impacts of another tropical cyclone Tauktae. Tauktae was the strongest storm to ever make landfall on the western coast of India, killing over 100 people. The cyclone mainly hit the northwestern region of India, causing floods and storm surge to areas including Mumbai.
Tauktae also brought light to moderate rainfall in Nepal, where its impacts were also felt in the mountains. There were reports of tents of mountaineers blown away at Everest Base Camp.
“Tauktae had emerged from the Arabian sea which mostly affected the western parts of the country. Unlike the cyclone in the Arabian sea or westerly disturbances that hit the western parts of the country, cyclones in the Bay of Bengal affect the eastern and central Nepal,” said Aryal. “Cyclone in the Bay of Bengal can cause more rainfall in Nepal as in the next two weeks, or so the monsoon will also enter the country from the Bay of Bengal. Even a wind flow pattern starts from eastern Nepal, carrying more moisture to the country at this time. We had anticipated that this weather system, driven by the cyclone, would cause more rainfall and that’s what we are witnessing now.”
Although only a few places have received heavy rainfall by Thursday afternoon, Aryal said there are chances of heavy rainfall in the next couple of days and asked the general public to remain safe.
“Most of the places have been receiving light but sustained rainfall,” said Aryal. “One must be careful as landslides can still occur if it rains for 24 to 48 hours.”