Southern India, reeling from Cyclone Nivar, braces for new tropical threat

Maura Kelly

Another tropical threat is taking shape over the Bay of Bengal only days after deadly Cyclone Nivar slammed southern India.

An area of disturbed weather that drifted from near the Andaman Islands over the Bay of Bengal over the weekend will continue to meander over the area into early week. It's over this portion of the bay that this feature will encounter conditions more conducive for tropical development.

The waters of the Bay of Bengal are still warm, and wind shear, or the change in wind speed at different levels of the atmosphere, is forecast to decrease through the weekend and into the beginning of next week.

AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Adam Douty expects this disturbance to organize into a tropical depression before reaching southern India and Sri Lanka on Tuesday or Wednesday of next week.

"It is possible that this can strengthen into a cyclonic storm, equivalent to a tropical storm on the Saffir-Simpson Wind Scale used in the Atlantic hurricane basin, by the time it reaches land," Douty added.

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A stronger storm would mean more widespread and stronger wind gusts can reach areas of Puducherry and Tamil Nadu in southern India as well as northern Sri Lanka.

In a scenario where a stronger storm takes shape, wind gusts can become potent enough to cause localized damage, especially to weaker structures, and power outages.

Regardless of any strengthening, tropical rainfall is forecast to arrive across parts of Puducherry, Tamil Nadu and Sri Lanka by Monday or Tuesday as the storm nears. Heavy rainfall can increase the risk of flash flooding and exacerbate any existing flooding in areas impacted by Cyclone Nivar.

A family wades through a flooded street in Chennai, India, Wednesday, Nov. 25, 2020. India's southern state of Tamil Nadu is bracing for Cyclone Nivar that is expected to make landfall on Wednesday. The state authorities have issued an alert and asked people living in low-lying and flood-prone areas to move to safer places. (AP Photo/R. Parthibhan)

"While the overall track is expected to be farther to the south compared to Nivar, it can still bring additional rain to areas recently inundated by Nivar's heavy rainfall which can renew flooding or slow recovery, namely around Chennai and Puducherry," warned Douty.

On Friday evening, local time, areas of tropical rainfall were still lingering over northern Andhra Pradesh and Telangana from the deadly cyclone.

Nivar made landfall near Puducherry as a very severe cyclonic storm with maximum sustained winds of 120-130 km/h (75-80 mph) late Wednesday night, local time. This is equivalent to a Category 1 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale in the Atlantic hurricane basin.

At least three deaths have been blamed on the storm in Tamil Nadu after strong winds knocked over trees and damaged houses. Wednesday and Thursday were declared a public holiday across the state, shutting down everything except for emergency services.

On Friday, local time, the Prime Minster of India, Narendra Modi, spoke with state officials about the impacts from Nivar and stated that teams were being sent to Tamil Nadu to assist in rescue and recovery efforts.

The prime minister also expressed his condolences to grieving families and announced aid to help those affected by the storm.

AccuWeather forecasters will be monitoring the potential for this next tropical system to track between India and Sri Lanka and into the Laccadive Sea into the end of next week. This path could prolong the life of the storm and may allow it to restrengthen over the Arabian Sea.

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