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Tropical Cyclone Tauktae Tied Strongest Landfall On Record In India's Gujarat State

The Weather Channel logoThe Weather Channel 5/17/2021 weather.com meteorologists

Tropical Cyclone Tauktae (pronounced TAU-te) made landfall in India with torrential rain, damaging winds and coastal flooding.

Tauktae's center moved ashore just before midnight local time, May 17 in western India's Gujarat state between Porbanadar and Mahuva, about 150 miles northwest of Mumbai.

According to the U.S. Joint Typhoon Warning Center, Tauktae was the equivalent of a Category 3 hurricane at landfall, with maximum sustained winds estimated at 125 mph.

This tied Tauktae with a May 1999 cyclone for the strongest cyclone by estimated wind speed to landfall in Gujarat, according to NOAA's database. A June 1998 cyclone which claimed an estimated 1,320 lives was the only other Category 3 Gujarat landfall in modern-era records dating to the 1970s.

The IMD forecasted a storm surge of 10 to 13 feet in this area at landfall, generally along and just to the east of the path of Tauktae's center. Locally dangerous storm surge was also expected in India's gulfs of Khambhat and Kutch to the north of Mumbai where the triangular bay structure and smaller rivers could funnel water northward.

The cyclone damaged hundreds of homes in India and claimed lives due to its rainfall flooding and winds.

(NEWS: Deadly Tauktae Impacts India)

Rainfall totals of 8 to 19 inches soaked parts of the southwest India coast in the 48 hours ending late Monday, local time.

Mumbai – home to 20 million in its metro area – picked up over 8 inches of rain Monday. But fortunately the worst wind impacts were avoided as Tauktae's center remained just west of the city as it topped out at Category 4 intensity.

Arabian Sea Cyclone History and a More Active Future?

Only one or two cyclones form in the Arabian Sea each year, on average, compared to 14 named storms in an average Atlantic Basin hurricane season.

May is one of the two seasonal cyclone peaks in the North Indian Ocean Basin, which includes the Bay of Bengal and Arabian Sea. This is because wind shear tends to be low in the basin before the monsoon rains begin, allowing cyclones to form.

Most hurricane-strength Arabian Sea cyclones track either toward India's Gujarat state or migrate westward, sometimes making it to the Arabian Peninsula.

Strikes near Mumbai have been rare. According to NOAA's database, only five hurricane-strength cyclones have tracked within 70 miles of Mumbai in records dating to 1903.

In early June 2020, Cyclone Nisarga reached Category 1 intensity before it made landfall south of Mumbai, largely sparing the city.

Prior to that, 1948 was the last time another hurricane-strength cyclone tracked close to Mumbai.

That doesn't mean Mumbai won't ever be hit by an intense cyclone.

Computer simulations run by Columbia University suggest it's certainly plausible for the megacity to take a strike from a Category 3 or stronger cyclone. And that study doesn't consider climate change.

The Weather Company’s primary journalistic mission is to report on breaking weather news, the environment and the importance of science to our lives. This story does not necessarily represent the position of our parent company, IBM.

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