Cyclone Nargis death toll in the tens of thousands

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 12:42 PM GMT on May 06, 2008

A disaster of staggering magnitude continues to unfold in Myanmar, where the death toll from Tropical Cyclone Nargis exceeds 22,000. In one city alone--Bogalay, about 50 miles southwest of the capital of Yangon--10,000 people are thought to have died. Bogalay is a decrepit city of 100,000 that lies at the head of a estuary that leads to the sea. No doubt this narrow waterway served to funnel a storm surge over ten feet high into the city. News reports have not yet been received from the coast southeast of Yangon, which also received a significant storm surge, and the toll from Nargis is certain to go much higher.

Nargis hit the coast of Myanmar Friday night as powerful Category 3 cyclone with winds of 130 mph. The cyclone took the worst possible track, passing directly over the densely populated and low lying Irrawaddy River delta. A deadly storm surge--probably around 12 feet high--inundated the delta region, accounting for most of the deaths. The storm's fierce winds killed many more. The only fortunate thing about Nargis was its small size. Hurricane-force winds covered an area about 90 miles in diameter (Figure 1). In contrast, the wind field of Katrina at landfall spanned an area about 205 miles in diameter. Winds from both storms at landfall were about the same (strong Category 3), but Katrina's winds covered an area four times larger than Nargis.

Figure 1. The wind field (black contours, in knots) of Nargis shortly after landfall, when it was a Category 3 storm with top winds of 105 knots (120 mph). Hurricane force winds (red wind barbs) spanned an area about 90 miles in diameter. Image credit: CSU/CIRA/RAMMB.

Loss of the rice harvest
Nargis' arrival came at the worst time possible, during the winter bora rice crop harvest. This crop, planted in January, and very heavily focused in the Irrawaddy River delta, was significantly affected by Nargis. Rice prices have nearly tripled in the past year, and now Myanmar must wait until the summer rice crop is harvested in September and October before adequate supplies of rice will be at hand. The impact will spread beyond Myanmar, since they export rice to Banladesh and Sri Lanka, according to Reuters.

Comments from Chris Burt
I've been in regular communication about this disaster with Chris Burt, author of the excellent book Extreme Weather. He has been visiting Myanmar every year for 30 years, and has much insight on the situation there:

Note this: No word yet about casualties from the Mon or Karen States; those areas not in the Delta region but to the SE of Rangoon where a major storm surge and flooding from rains may have occurred.

The government considers these areas 'minority states' and these states have traditionally been looked down upon by ethnic Burmese, They are heavily populated. I will bet they will be the last areas to receive aid, and the last regions from which we hear news so far as storm damage is concerned.

I might add this is indicative of just how bad the situation in Burma is. People who are not aware of the isolation of Myanmar, one of the largest most populated countries in the world, will not be able to grasp the gravity of this disaster. It is a country under the thumb of complete ignorants: the leaders of this county have NEVER traveled outside of Burma before. They have no education whatsoever. They live in a dream world of astrology and have maintained their control by funneling all the nation's vast resources to crony patronage and the military. China is their only steadfast friend in the international arena. Even Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, and India who do business with this regime do so at hands length.

If you can understand what I am saying here you will understand just how bad the situation is.

Jeff Masters

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785. cchsweatherman
2:22 PM GMT on May 08, 2008
Good morning to everyone!

Some people have mentioned that the GFS models have indicated a Gulf of Mexico event. I do not see anything on the models indicating this, unless you guys are watching a different model. From my analysis of the GFS model, the model picks up on some moisture influx over the Gulf Coast region as troughs come swinging across the United States creating some strong showers and storms. It does not indicate any subtropical/tropical activity. But, it would not surprise me, in the very least, if something were to develop in the GOM later this month.

TerraNova brings up a very interesting observation, that I too have noted, in the GFS model. It does indeed appear that the Azores and Bermuda highs will merge during the month and sprawling across the Atlantic. This would tend to prevent storms from curving out into the North Atlantic Ocean since it usually swings troughs well to the north and around the periphery of the high pressure ridge. If this does hold true, it will indeed be a season where Florida (and the entire East Coast for that matter) will have to remain on their toes when storms do develop out in the Central Atlantic.

I will be updating my website sometime either today or tomorrow on the current conditions presenting themselves in the Tropical Atlantic along with - FINALLY - my 2008 Atlantic Hurricane Season preview. I apologize for the delay in the release, but I have been rather busy and in not the greatest health.

I will be on pretty much all morning since I have no work today and my college classes have come to an end.
Member Since: April 14, 2007 Posts: 8 Comments: 5169
783. IKE
2:05 PM GMT on May 08, 2008
There's a new blog..
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37995
782. OrchidGrower
2:02 PM GMT on May 08, 2008
MNTornado, even at a death toll of 100,000 Cyclone Nargis does not come close to the death toll of the 2004 tsunami. The tsunami officially killed around 230- 250,000 people, but another 200,000 or so are officially listed as "missing." The sad fact is that news organizations today are astonishingly lax in keeping up with records. I emailed one of the national news agencies after it listed the evacuation for the recent San Diego fires as being the largest in U.S. history, when in fact the Texas evacuation for Hurricane Rita was bigger by a factor of multiples.
Member Since: September 24, 2002 Posts: 0 Comments: 439
780. StormJunkie
1:44 PM GMT on May 08, 2008
Morning all :~)

Hog, I think that statement is somewhat accurate, but I also thought that the clockwise flow of air around the high does help to steer them as well?
Member Since: August 17, 2005 Posts: 26 Comments: 17164
1:30 PM GMT on May 08, 2008
I'm "permanently pre-evacuated". It is exactly a 30 mile drive (bike or Corolla) to the beach, and a two mile drive to the boat ramp on the St. Johns River. I am at 90' on the first good hill as you come inland from the coast. From here East, it is 0-20'. The river is <8' ASL. CBS structure walls poured solid. ELK dim shingles, shutters :), but gables :(. I'll obviously be here for my job, but Cat-4 or 5, family is still leaving. Mr. Miyagi: Best defense, don't be there.
Member Since: October 13, 2005 Posts: 4 Comments: 2156
772. biff4ugo
12:13 PM GMT on May 08, 2008
Cool YouTube clip by Dr. Masters on the Typhoon and Mangroves.
See PATRAP comment number 21 on climate change blogs.
Member Since: December 28, 2006 Posts: 119 Comments: 1638
770. biff4ugo
11:55 AM GMT on May 08, 2008
Imagine Katrina in an area with NO building codes, no Red Cross or even FEMA. They have somewhat effective leadership but its actively blocking assistance. That is just sad.
You can see from the inundation photos that their water resources are contaminated.
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769. extreme236
10:49 AM GMT on May 08, 2008
The NHC this morning dropped our "first" tropical wave at 60W.
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768. Cavin Rawlins
10:43 AM GMT on May 08, 2008
Tropical Wave Number 2

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767. MNTornado
10:41 AM GMT on May 08, 2008
I just heard on the TV this morning (5:30am CDT) that the expected death toll is 100,000. This make this disaster as bad as when the Christmas tsunami struck. I have read some comparisons to Katrina, but from what I'm hearing on TV, this is much worse and expected to get even more worse if that's possible.
Member Since: July 1, 2005 Posts: 160 Comments: 19330
766. TerraNova
10:25 AM GMT on May 08, 2008
The GFS is predicting an interesting high pressure setup for the Atlantic later this month. From run to run the center of the high changes a bit but the extent is generally the same: some sort of merger of the B/A high with the highest central pressure being 1025 mb. Does this have anything to do with the current stage of the NAO?

Member Since: July 30, 2007 Posts: 76 Comments: 4063
765. FLWeatherFreak91
9:29 AM GMT on May 08, 2008
Wind shear ahead of this front is far too high for anything to form, but the shear is forecast to drop once this front moves south. Maybe this detached 'low' in the BOC will hitch a ride back to the East then. We def. do need rain here in central Fl.
Member Since: December 1, 2006 Posts: 2 Comments: 3762
762. atmoaggie
7:23 AM GMT on May 08, 2008
"No evidence supporting frequency and/or intensity in the Indian Ocean" contributable to GW
I suppose these maps are wrong then?

STL, that is what Dr. Masters said. Dr. Emanuel's potential intensity product is useful and interesting, but has what to do with GW and detectible historical trends?
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761. Hurricanman
5:00 AM GMT on May 08, 2008
Satellite GIS (new this week!):

Click the checkboxes at the bottom of the screen to add layers. Some controls are disabled. Pretty self explanatory. GIS page still very much in developement.

GOES-12 Atmospheric animations:

Choose region, channel. More channels, regions coming.

Feedback? Links subject to change. Both are still officially unofficial and may be removed at any time.
Member Since: July 8, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 122
760. Tazmanian
5:00 AM GMT on May 08, 2008
am going to bed LOL
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757. Tazmanian
4:53 AM GMT on May 08, 2008
to the high amount of traffic that Dr. Masters' blog receives, a special community standard has been established for the blog. The following list comprises the "Rules of the Road" for Dr. Masters' blog.

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Retrieved from ""

look like they added some things
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756. Tazmanian
4:45 AM GMT on May 08, 2008
no one nvere said any thing to me about i cant post any # like that in dr m blog so in tell some one say some in to me about then i do it some time but if some one dos say some in about it to me then i wont do it any more

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755. tornadofan
4:39 AM GMT on May 08, 2008
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754. Tazmanian
4:38 AM GMT on May 08, 2008
Member Since: May 21, 2006 Posts: 5101 Comments: 118372
753. Tazmanian
4:38 AM GMT on May 08, 2008
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752. Tazmanian
4:38 AM GMT on May 08, 2008
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751. Tazmanian
4:38 AM GMT on May 08, 2008
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750. HadesGodWyvern (Mod)
3:59 AM GMT on May 08, 2008
At 3:00 AM UTC, Tropical Storm Rammasun (0802) [996 hPa] located near 8.7N 131.0E had 10 minute sustained winds of 40 knots with gusts up to 60 knots. The storm was reported moving north-northwest slowly.

Gale Force Winds
180 NM southwest from the center.
120 NM northeast from the center.

Forecast Intensity and Position
24 HRS: 11.1N 130.0E - 50 knots [CAT 2]
48 HRS: 14.3N 129.5E - 65 knots [CAT 3]
69 HRS: 18.1N 129.4E - 80 knots [CAT 3]
Member Since: May 24, 2006 Posts: 62 Comments: 54075
749. Patrap
3:57 AM GMT on May 08, 2008
Thanx Stormxyz..Dr. Masters Has great insight as to Tropical Landfalls and their Impacts.

Source: United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs - Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN)

Date: 07 May 2008
Myanmar: First visas issued to international relief teams

BANGKOK, 7 May 2008 (IRIN) - John Holmes, head of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), said in New York that four Asian members of a UN disaster coordination team had obtained clearance and would arrive in Myanmar on Thursday. A fifth team member, who is not Asian, had not yet obtained clearance. A UN plane from Italy would be also be arriving with supplies and another team. Link

Facts about Myanmar's international humanitarian aid

YANGON, May 7, 2008 (AFP) - Following the deadly cyclone Nargis in Myanmar that claimed at least 22,000 lives and left 41,000 people missing, many countries have pledged emergency aid so far totalling some 17 million euros (26 million dollars). Link

Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 449 Comments: 140159
746. Stormxyz
3:45 AM GMT on May 08, 2008
Patrap thanks for the video of Dr. Masters. thats the first i have seen of him live on TV so it puts him in a new light. He definately is very knowledgeable.
742. Chicklit
3:34 AM GMT on May 08, 2008
Cool video of Dr. Masters...And he didn't even plug his site!
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741. Patrap
3:31 AM GMT on May 08, 2008
TWC, mind candy for the Masses.

They actually missed reporting a Live Tornado in Atlanta,their own City.. cus they were running Pre-Programmed BS. A viewers comment Link

We Never watch them.
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 449 Comments: 140159
740. Chicklit
3:27 AM GMT on May 08, 2008
716. HouseofGryffindor 2:49 AM GMT on May 08, 2008
I feel like every time I come here I scare everyone away - it always gets quiet! :)

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738. HadesGodWyvern (Mod)
3:25 AM GMT on May 08, 2008
punishing them both was kind of bad.
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736. Patrap
3:22 AM GMT on May 08, 2008
Dr. Jeff Masters Interview ..recorded Live as it ran earlier at 8:17 EST

Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 449 Comments: 140159

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Dr. Masters co-founded wunderground in 1995. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters 1986-1990. Co-blogging with him: Bob Henson, @bhensonweather

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