Cyclone Vayu approaches India
Dust storms are kicking up in the western Indian state of Gujarat as Tropical Cyclone Vayu approaches.
This photo and video, sent to CNN by Nirav Mehta, show a massive dust storm at Banni Grasslands Reserve Wednesday. The high winds were caused by thunderstorms from the cyclone.
Watch the moment:
Cyclone Vayu can be seen churning in the Arabian Sea from space.
NASA's Aqua satellite took an image of Cyclone Vayu at about 4:05 a.m. ET Wednesday when the center of the storm was off the western coast of India, according to NASA.
NASA scientists predicted the center of the storm measured 115 miles across.
What's the difference between cyclones, hurricanes, typhoons?
The answer: there is no difference.
The National Ocean Service says that hurricane, typhoon, and cyclone are all terms used to describe "a rotating, organized system of clouds and thunderstorms that originates over tropical or subtropical waters."
The location where the storm originates is how scientists determine what to call the system.
CNN Meteorologist Chad Myers explains:
- Cyclones are in the Indian Ocean and South Pacific
- Typhoons are in the Western North Pacific
- Hurricanes are in the Eastern North Pacific and Northern Atlantic Basin
And yes, it is possible for storms to change names as they move across the map. For example, a hurricane can become a typhoon when it moves over the dateline.
The National Ocean Service said that these names all describe "a rotating, organized system of clouds and thunderstorms that originates over tropical or subtropical waters."
Cyclone Vayu is the second massive cyclone to hit India this year.
Last month, Cyclone Fani hit the eastern Indian state of Odisha, killing about 30 people. A similar cyclone in the area in 1999 killed at least 10,000 people.
So why was the death toll much lower for Fani? One major factor was the very effective disaster management infrastructure and mechanism India has built in the last decade or so. They have become very good at moving rescue workers in and moving residents away very quickly. So in comparison to previous cyclones, they've been seeing a significantly lower death toll in the recent years.
India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi took to Twitter to reassure residents that government officials are monitoring Tropical Cyclone Vayu.
He added that the National Disaster Response Force was working "round the clock to provide all possible assistance."
“Praying for the safety and well-being of all those affected by Cyclone Vayu. The Government and local agencies are providing real-team information, which I urge those in affected areas to closely follow,” Modi tweeted.
India's Home Ministry has dispatched natural disaster teams ahead of Tropical Cyclone Vayu.
Here's what else you need to know about storm preparations:
- India's Home Secretary Rajiv Gauba chaired a high-level meeting in New Delhi today to review the preparedness of state and central ministries/agencies concerned to deal with the situation arising out of Vayu.
- The Indian Coast Guard, the Navy, Army and Air Force units have also been put on stand-by and surveillance aircraft and helicopters are carrying out aerial surveillance.
- Gauba directed officials to take all precautionary measures to ensure that no human life is lost and minimize damage to infrastructure.
- All state government employees on vacation have been called back to duty.
- A total of 47 National Disaster Response Force teams are now in Gujarat to help local administration during and in the aftermath of the cyclone. Each team has around 45 members.
Nearly 300,000 people have been evacuated from low-lying areas in Gujarat to safer places in preparation for Tropical Cyclone Vayu, India’s Home Minister Amit Shah tweeted.
Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani said Wednesday that food, water, shelter have been arranged for them.
In a statement, India's Home Ministry said evacuees will be moved to 700 shelters.
The center of Tropical Cyclone Vayu will be approaching the coast of Gujarat in the next 12 hours.
Here's what it will do next:
- The center of the storm is near: The center will pass very close to the coastline, though it may or may not make an official “landfall” (meaning the center, or eye, of the storm moves onshore) — nevertheless, at least half the storm will be over land so the coastal region will be hit directly by the rain, winds and surge.
- It will slow down: The other important aspect of the storm will be that it will slow down significantly as it moves along the coastline of Gujarat along the Kutch Peninsula. It will take about 48 hours to clear the region, which could allow rainfall totals to be in excess of 250-500 mm (9-19 inches), which would cause significant flooding.
Six million people could be impacted by Tropical Cyclone Vayu, which is barreling toward northwest India and expected to make landfall in the next 12 hours.
Almost 300,000 people are set to be evacuated to 700 shelter homes, a spokesperson for India's Home Ministry said Wednesday. Schools and colleges in affected districts are closed until Friday, officials said.
With winds in excess of 120 kph (that's about 75 mph), Tropical Cyclone Vayu could become the strongest cyclone to strike northwestern India in decades. It comes one month after powerful Tropical Cyclone Fani slammed into India's northeastern coastline.
Where is Vayu heading? On Wednesday, Tropical Cyclone Vayu will pass about 200 kilometers (125 miles) west of Mumbai before making landfall in Gujarat state on India's western coast on Thursday.
Tropical Cyclone Vayu, which formed yesterday, has strengthened into a hurricane-strength tropical cyclone in the Arabian Sea. The storm is expected to strengthen as it moves northward off the western coast of India over the next 48 hours.
This is a very rare storm: The storm will pass about 200 km west of Mumbai on Wednesday before making landfall in Gujarat on Thursday. As of now, the forecast from the JTWC calls for a landfall intensity of 175 kph (110 mph) which would make it a borderline Category 2 or 3 equivalent hurricane at landfall.
Tropical Cyclones rarely make it this far north, and Gujarat has not been hit by a hurricane-strength Cyclone since 1998 (that storm was a Category 3 and killed 10,000 people).