A massive cyclone half size of India is building strength and barreling from the Bay of Bengal toward highly vulnerable areas in the southeast portion of the country. Government officials – remembering a major cyclone that hit Orissa, India, claiming nearly 10,000 lives in 1999 – are working with Indian military forces as preparations are underway.
Cyclone Phailin – which means Sapphire in Thai – is currently heading northwest at about 8 mph and expected to make landfall this weekend. By some reports based on satellite observations, Cyclone Phailin brings 175 mph sustained winds – making it equivalent to a Category 5 hurricane. Commonly referred to as hurricanes in the eastern Pacific, north Atlantic, Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico, tropical cyclones are large swirling storm systems that have a common pinwheel shape in satellite images.
Evacuations are taking place in the Indian states of Odisha and Andhra Pradesh, while vacationers along the coast are leaving their hotels for safer ground. With landfall imminent, along the coast in Bhubaneswar, residents are feverishly stocking up on essentials, causing the prices of staples like potatoes to more than double overnight, while the cost of other essentials — such as rice — soared as well.
Heavy rain, extreme wins, intense flooding and storm surge of up to 10 feet will likely create serious and possibly life-threatening conditions, as officials warn of large-scale blackouts and widespread floods. Officials have set a “zero causality” goal as Phailin approaches.