Very Severe Cyclone Phailin approaching the eastern Indian coast on October 11, 2013.
Cyclone Phailin is on track to make landfall in the state of Odisha on the northeastern coast of India with 165 MPH winds, making it the equivalent of a category 5 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson Scale. The environment is highly favorable to sustaining the strength of Phailin through landfall -- very warm waters, no wind shear, no dry air to disrupt the storm --so the only chance at weakening is the structure of the storm cycling in a process known as the eyewall replacement cycle.

Here's the latest forecast track for Phailin from the Joint Typhoon Warning Center, along with the forecast intensity (in the box on the top right):

Breaking tradition with my normal routine in weather diaries, the rest of the diary is editorializing on my part:

This kind of storm is the worst case scenario by pretty much anyone's standards. If the forecast of 165 MPH winds at landfall holds up and verifies -- and god I hope it doesn't -- it is going to bring catastrophic impacts to India.

A cyclone took a similar track back in 1999, making landfall with 155 MPH winds in roughly the same area that Phailin is predicted to make landfall within the next two days. The cyclone, dubbed the "1999 Odisha Cyclone," killed an estimated 15,000 people and left over 1.6 million people homeless.

Rescue crews and humanitarian groups were unable to access the region for an extended period of time due to the damage, leading to widespread starvation and disease among the survivors of the storm.

It's not uncommon for cyclones in this part of the world to kill many thousands of people due to the population density of the region along with factors like poverty (which makes leaving impossible) and poor building construction. A cyclone that hit Bangladesh in 1991 killed over 136,000 people.

The state in the path of Phailin -- Odisha -- is home to over 41 million people. That's 3 million more people than live in California, in a territory roughly the size of Montana.

Given the population density of the area expected to take a direct hit from Phailin, the extreme poverty in the region, and the historical precedent set by the slightly smaller storm in 1999, it wouldn't be a far stretch of the imagination to predict that the death toll could reach 10,000 people or more once the storm is over.

Regardless of the death toll, the human suffering for the survivors will be intense. Many crops and livestock will be destroyed in the storm. Most people in the zone of extreme winds will likely lose their residence. The likely surge will destroy and make many coastal areas uninhabitable for a long while.

Depending on the extent of the damage to infrastructure, rescue crews and humanitarian groups may have a hard time reaching the survivors in the hardest-hit areas. Vector-borne diseases will likely skyrocket due to stagnant water and deceased humans and animals in the aftermath. Access to clean water and edible food will likely drop off significantly after the storm.

If Phailin does make landfall with 165 MPH winds -- or even anywhere near that strength -- this part of India is going to experience a catastrophic humanitarian disaster. Hurricane Katrina was about as bad as we've seen in recent memory in the United States, and the images from that storm were horrific. The humanitarian disaster that will follow a storm like this would be unimaginable to both Americans and many other people in the West who have it relatively good compared to the rest of the world.

Other than posting a big orange link to the Indian Red Cross (and the American Red Cross), I don't know how else to help. I'm sure a whole list of organizations will materialize after the storm has passed, but if you know of any in the meantime, please post them in the comments so people can go and donate or do whatever they can to help.

Originally posted to El Blogo de Weatherdudeo on Thu Oct 10, 2013 at 11:26 PM PDT.

Also republished by Climate Change SOS.

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