The IMD on Monday issued a red alert for Wednesday, indicating extremely heavy rain at isolated places in Mumbai, Thane, Palghar and Raigad owing to Nisarga. The Central Water Commission (CWC) warned of possible flash floods in Sindhudurg, Ratnagiri, Palghar, Thane, Mumbai and Nashik, and tidal waves in the coastal regions of north Maharashtra and south Gujarat.
ALSO READ: Cyclone Nisarga live updates: Red alert as Mumbai braces for first-ever cyclone in its history
Union home minister Amit Shah had a meeting with chief minister Uddhav Thackeray on Monday to review Maharashtra’s preparedness for Nisarga. The reason for Mumbai’s low risk from cyclones lies in the weather dynamics of the Arabian Sea. On average, the sea sees one or two cyclonic formations every year and when they do form, they tend to go west towards Oman and the Gulf of Aden, or head north towards Gujarat, as with the 1998 cyclone that killed thousands, or last year’s Cyclone Vayu.
Nisarga is expected to make landfall in Palghar on Wednesday evening. Ten of the 16 teams of the National Disaster Response Force have been stationed in coastal districts, including three in Mumbai and two in Palghar and Dahanu. Six teams are on standby.
“There may be some increase in inflows into dams… Watch thus has to be maintained… There may be chances of flash flooding in west-flowing rivers between Tapi and Tadri, affecting coastal districts,” a CWC official told TOI.
Fishing boats have been asked to come back to the shore. Of nearly 15,000 boats, about 100, mostly in Palghar, with 1,000 fishermen and helpers on board, are yet to report back; the Coast Guard has been instructed to escort them back. All collectors of coastal districts have been informed about the steps to be taken. The speed and direction of the cyclone are to be continuously monitored.
Hazardous chemical manufacturing industries have been asked to bring operations to safe mode by Tuesday. “Mumbai and Juhu airports have been asked to park planes at safe spots. Power firms have been instructed to ensure connections are not disrupted,” said a senior state official. Thackeray said people who live in temporary or weak houses will be shifted to relief camps. Hospitals have been kept on high alert. In Palghar, the CrPC’s Section 144 has been imposed to prevent the gathering of four or more persons.
The IMD has warned of winds reaching 60-70 kmph gusting to 80 kmph along the south Maharashtra coast from June 2 morning, further becoming 105-115 kmph gusting to 125 kmph along the Mumbai Metropolitan Region.
The IMD on Sunday had given an orange alert for June 3, which it upgraded on Monday to a red alert as the depression over east-central and southeast Arabian Sea started moving north. Light rainfall was already recorded between May 31 and June 1 in Mumbai. Shubhangi Bhute, scientist, IMD-Mumbai, said that on Monday morning, the weather system was moving with a speed of 13kmph about 630km south-southwest of Mumbai, 340km southwest of Panjim and 850km south-southwest of Surat. “In the next 12 hours, we are expecting this to intensify into a cyclonic storm over east-central Arabian Sea. It is very likely to move nearly northwards initially till June 2 morning and then recurve north-northeastwards and cross north Maharashtra’s and south Gujarat’s coasts between Harihareshwar (in Raigad) and Daman during the afternoon of June 3,” Bhute said.
An earlier version of this report mistakenly said Mumbai has not been hit by a cyclone in recorded history. That was an error: Mumbai has not been hit by a cyclone since 1948, although Cyclone Phyan came close in 2009. The city has never been hit by a cyclone in June in recorded history, according to IMD. (Modern records of cyclones for India begin in 1891.)
We – and a few others, including the BBC – went by an analysis of historical data by Adam Sobel, Professor of Applied Physics and Applied Mathematics and of Earth and Environmental Sciences at Columbia University, that he has since corrected. Last night, Sobel tweeted, “I wish to correct a misstatement I have made in several articles about #CycloneNisarga. I have said that Mumbai hasn’t seen a ‘significant cyclone’ since the start of modern data in 1891. This is incorrect; there was one in 1948, per newspaper clippings.” TOI had in November 1948 published reports of a fierce storm paralyzing the city (as a general practice, we refer to our archives when writing such reports, but were unable to this time).
Sobel’s corrected analysis shows storms of a high-intensity have come within 100 km Mumbai in 1903, 1940, and 1948. “Nonetheless, if the forecasts for Nisarga verify, it will still be the strongest storm to affect the city directly in at least 70 years,” Sobel said.
Although some scientists consider Cyclone Phyan (in November 2009) to be the city’s first significant cyclone in recent history, others including Sobel, do not because it was weaker than Nisarga and ultimately missed the city itself.