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Cyclone Phailin

By: Christopher C. Burt, 5:55 PM GMT on October 09, 2013

Cyclone Phailin

Jeff Masters has posted an excellent and comprehensive update today concerning the aftermath of Cyclone Phailin. I will post a new blog on Monday.

A satellite image of Cyclone Phailin at midnight EDT time on October 12th with sustained winds of 160 mph and gust to 195 mph. Top photo was taken near Golplalpur (where Phialin made landfall Saturday night) Saturday morning as the storm approached. Photo by Biswaranjan/AP.

Jeff Masters is follwoing the storm in his blog and the forecast for Phailin (pronounced 'pie-leen', the Thai word for sapphire). The storm appears to be the most severe since the ‘Great Orissa Cyclone of 1999’ (Orissa State in northeastern India is now known as Odisha State). This cyclone killed 9,000-10,000 people when it made landfall on October 19, 1999 with 155 mph winds and a storm surge of 19 feet. The storm was classified as a ‘Super Cyclonic Storm’ in the nomenclature of tropical storms that affect the North Indian Ocean, Bay of Bengal, and the Arabian Sea. Here is a table that compares the classifications used for tropical storms in the various ocean basins of the world:

Most Intense Bay of Bengal Cyclones

Details (like barometric pressure and wind speeds) for historic cyclones that have affected India in the past (prior to 1990) are sketchy. The lowest barometric pressure ever measured in the Bay of Bengal was during a severe cyclone in 1833 when the British vessel S.S. Duke of York reported a pressure of 891mb (26.30”) while passing through the eye of a storm in the bay. As Jeff mentioned in a recent blog, the Orissa Cyclone of 1999 bottomed out at 912 mb (26.93”) and was the most intense such to strike India in at least the past 35 years or so (note that Phailin has apparently become even more intense if the 910 mb figure estimated by satellite stands). The death toll of the 1999 storm of over 9,000 was the greatest in India since the so-called Devi Taluk cyclone that killed 14,200 in Andhra Pradesh State north of Chennai (Madras) on November 12, 1977 (on a side note, I passed through there two weeks after that event on a train from Calcutta to Madras--the devastation was incredible).

This map illustrates how cyclones affect India by time of year of occurrence, regions most often affected, and historical storm surges observed at various points along the coastline. Map from Compare Infobase Ltd.

A cargo ship beached near Chennai (Madras) by Cyclone Nilam that slammed ashore in Andhra Pradesh last fall on November 1, 2012. The cyclone killed dozens in southern India and prior to Cyclone Phailin was the last strongest cyclone to hit India. Photo from Xinhua News Agency.

Deadliest Bay of Bengal Cyclones

Most of the deadliest tropical storms on earth have occurred in the Bay of Bengal when tremendous storm surges have swamped the low-lying coastal regions of Bangladesh, India, and Burma. The worst of all was the Great Boha Cyclone of November 12-13, 1970 when a 40-foot storm surge overwhelmed the delta islands of the Brahmaputra and Ganges Rivers in Bangladesh. An estimated 300,000-500,000 perished. This storm is also considered to have produced the greatest storm surge of any Indian Ocean cyclone although similar surges may have occurred during the 1733 and 1876 cyclones.

A storm surge graphic of the Great Boha Cyclone of November 1970. The bars indicate how high in feet the storm surge was at various locations along the coasts of India and Bangladesh. Each bar is ’48 feet’ long and the green shading inside the bars shows how many feet (out of 48’) the surge reached. The greatest height was 40 feet at Hatia, Bangladesh. Graphic from ‘Extreme Weather: A Guide and Record Book’ based upon data supplied by the Indian Meteorological Department.

Below is a list of the ten deadliest cyclones to affect the Bay of Bengal region (these figures vary from source to source, and the Chittagong Cyclone casualties may have been much lower, hence the list is composed of 11 cyclones rather than ten):

The deadliest cyclone to affect the western coast of India (Arabian Sea region) was that of 1882 when 100,000 died in and around Bombay.

Christopher C. Burt
Weather Historian

Extreme Weather Hurricane

The views of the author are his/her own and do not necessarily represent the position of The Weather Company or its parent, IBM.

Reader Comments

Are there any pressure readings from the earlier devastating Indian cyclones? I know wikipedia has the 1970 cyclone at 966 mb. I am sure it was much lower than that.
not a good situation
What a sad history. Thank you for gathering those informations though!

Here are two videos about the aftermath and the reconstruction efforts of the 1999 cyclone:

Published May 22, 2013
When a massive cyclone struck Odisha in 1999, IDRF and its donors responded with far-sighted rehabilitation efforts. IDRF improved livelihoods of the affected people, who were barely getting by even before disaster struck. IDRF introduced deep-water-tolerant rice seeds to hundreds of farmers, and provided tailoring training for women; 30,000 coconut trees to coconut farmers; and 80,000 saplings for kitchen gardens.

Video from 2007 about the aftermath of the 1999 cyclone (and rising sea levels):
Thanks Christopher! Very informative blog post.
Here's a satellite animation link of Phailin making landfall from IMD website:

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