Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.
By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 3:57 PM GMT on May 04, 2008
Cyclone Nargis, the deadliest and most destructive tropical cyclone ever to hit Burma (Myanmar), is finally dissipating today over Thailand. Nargis--a popular woman's name in India--slammed into the coast of Myanmar Friday night as borderline Category 3/Category 4 cyclone, with winds of 130-135 mph. After passing over the low-lying and densely populated Irrawaddy Delta region, Nargis made a direct hit on the capital city of Rangoon (Yangon), as a Category 1 storm with top winds of 80 mph. Winds at the Yangon airport hit 69 mph, gusting to 138 mph, at 5:30am local time on Saturday. The anemometer failed at that point, and the winds likely rose higher.
The death toll from Nargis is already at least 351, and is certain to rise as reports from hard-hit areas still cut off from communications begin to arrive. In particular, the low-lying Irrawaddy Delta region where Nargis initially made landfall is densely populated, and a storm surge in excess of 10 feet likely occurred there. It is unusual for a Bay of Bengal cyclone to pass so far south, and Nargis is the strongest tropical cyclone on record to hit the capital city of Rangoon. The previous highest death toll from a tropical cyclone in Myanmar was 187, during the Category 1 storm that hit on May 7, 1975. Nargis is the most powerful cyclone to hit Myanmar since Category 3 Cyclone Mala hit on April 28, 2006. Mala hit a less populated area less prone to storm surge, and killed 22 people and damaged 6000 buildings.
I'll have an analysis of Nargis' storm surge on Monday.
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